Two under-achievers meet at the Emirates Stadium this weekend.
Once the game of all games in the Premier League, Arsenal and Manchester United meet at the Emirates Stadium this weekend with little in the way of reward on offer, and little to be learned from the result.
Arsenal are in a permanent state of transition after years of false starts, crises, and ultimately standing completely still in their own little world of third and fourth place under Arsene Wenger. On the other hand, their opponents this weekend could perhaps serve as a warning of what happens when a highly influential and long-serving figuredhead finally vacates his throne – perhaps United have had more to lose than Arsenal feel they would at the moment, but how they have lost.
David Moyes’ reign at Old Trafford was a disaster few could have comprehended, and Louis van Gaal has not offered much more in the way of hope, despite spending far more money. There is something very deep at the core of the club that has gone, and with no obvious solution on the horizon, this identity crisis could be ongoing for some time.
Still, perhaps a win this weekend would give more momentum to the van Gaal project. Moyes had just one win against the big sides last season, and it was the manner of humiliating defeats to the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City that will have weighed heavily against him when the club made the decision to sack him in April.
It is hard to imagine, though, that United can achieve a great deal out of this season, even by November. After all, it could be argued that little can be taken from beating an Arsenal side that so regularly bottles the big games anyway. Likewise, it is pefectly easy to imagine that this Gunners side could manage a win over an injury-wrecked United side only to then lose in comical fashion to West Bromwich Albion the following weekend.
This is the true nature of this once-great fixture now, with fourth place surely the only reward at stake come the end of the season.