United don't scare us any more, says Nasri

Frenchman insists Evra's gibes merely give Arsenal added motivation

Sir Alex Ferguson may be keeping his thoughts on forthcoming summit meetings with Arsenal and Chelsea to himself and MUTV, but it will not have pleased him that his players have had quite so much to say about them.

First there was Nani – fancying himself more and more as the new Cristiano Ronaldo – talking down the champions. He was making an unfavourable comparison with the Gunners, who then came in for a verbal kicking from Patrice Evra.

Arsenal, a "training centre with no trophies... nothing", was the gist of the full-back's opinion, to add to a previous assertion of matches against them being between little boys and men. "We will see on Monday, we will show him that we grow up," was the response from a compatriot in Arsenal colours, Samir Nasri, who must feel that Evra's comments have provided every bit as much motivation as the incentive of the draw or victory at Old Trafford tomorrow night that would keep his team ahead of United in the table.

The gibes are familiar, albeit of a type more normally expressed by journalists and supporters than players. Nasri, one of the season's outstanding players, is prepared to fight fire with combustion in adding his own critique of tomorrow's opponents. "Man United is not the same team as before with Cristiano Ronaldo and Tevez," he said. "It was a little bit scary to play at Old Trafford. Now I don't think offensively they are the same as before. We're really confident to get a result out of this game."

Arsenal go into it on the back of four successive wins spread over three competitions, which followed the disturbing losses to Tottenham and Sporting Braga in the space of four days. Nasri, who will be playing his 100th game for the club, accepts that the psychological scars of the Spurs game remain, but believes their unsurpassed away record (17 points as opposed to United's nine) reflects a more solid approach away from the Emirates.

"The game against Tottenham is still in the head and when you concede a goal when you are 1-0 up, you still think about that game. The difference when we play away is that we defend much better. Our discipline and shape is more efficient. I'm confident because we can play our game and we know we can score at any moment away."

Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby will still be missing from midfield and Thomas Vermaelen from defence, which remains Arsenal's Achilles heel, a weak point that a Dimitar Berbatov or an invigorated Wayne Rooney (much improved against Valencia in midweek) could target. In contrast, attacking options are strengthened with Robin van Persie available after three months to play alongside or behind Marouane Chamakh. Nasri has been equally effective in centre-midfield or on either wing, becoming the leading scorer this season with 12 goals, some of them of spectacular quality.

It's as many goals in 20 games during the current campaign as in 79 previously, reflecting an improvement in form that he puts down to a summer which began with the disappointment of being omitted from France's World Cup squad. It turned out, of course, to be a good invitation to miss: "I had a good break this summer for the first time in my life. I had a rest for two months. Last year I broke my leg in pre-season and that made the difference. I'm used to playing in the Premier League now, I'm confident and all my team-mates are confident with me."

That also applies to Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, who says: "What's changed is that he is scoring goals. For a long time when you play football and you are not convinced you can score goals, you get to that stage where scoring goals does not become as important to your game. Now he knows he can score in every game."

Wenger's take on the most interesting title chase for some time is: "It's not just Manchester United and Arsenal, it is as well Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham. But the team who will win the title is the one who will get the most points from these games against other title contenders. I don't rule Chelsea out because they will be getting [Frank] Lampard and [Michael] Essien back. They will be dangerous."

For Arsenal, like neighbours Spurs, who play Chelsea today, the start of the week brings 90 minutes of football that will tell us a lot more about them.

Manchester United v Arsenal is on Sky Sports 1 tomorrow, kick-off 8pm

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003