Bragging rights and two managerial futures are up for grabs, as well as a place in the FA Cup semi-final…
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of Monday evening’s FA Cup quarter-final between Arsenal and Manchester United. Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal have taken very different approaches in their pre-match press conferences, but there’s no getting around the fact that this clash will define their seasons.
Wenger has not secured a win at Old Trafford since 2006, and while he’s rejected the suggestion that history could play a part in his side’s mentality, he’s emphasised the fact that the game is little different to any other.
The Frenchman, who was quoted by the Daily Express, has attempted to play down the importance of the game, saying: “I don’t believe too much in history I believe just in the performance of the day.
“At the moment we are doing very well away from home and the size of the pitch is exactly the same everywhere. It is just down to how we turn up and how much effort we put in to win the game.”
For the Gunners, Wenger’s casual dismissal could not be further from the truth – he’ll know that he’s on shaky ground already at the Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal fans demanding a second trophy in as many years.
With the North London giants well adrift in the Premier League title race, and facing a difficult task to overcome a 3-1 first leg deficit against AS Monaco in the Champions League, it’s easy to see the source of the supporter’s frustration.
In contrast Van Gaal, who was quoted by United’s official website, was quick to admit the importance of the clash. He said : “It’s a game between two teams of 11 players. United and Arsenal are placed third and fourth in the league, so it’s almost like a final, I think.
“We have the support of our fans but Arsenal shall bring a lot of fans too. Also, Arsenal and United are now in third and fourth place, so it is a big event with two good teams. I hope we can give a fantastic match for the fans.
“I think if we beat them it is a big blow for them, but if they beat us it is a big blow for us. It is very important game, not only for the FA Cup but also for the rat race.”
The Dutchman has been criticised for failing to bring the glory days back to United after taking over from David Moyes at the start of the season, despite spending over £150m in the summer transfer window.
For Van Gaal, the FA Cup would represent a sign of progress, while for Wenger, retaining the competition would emphasise his belief that he can still deliver success to his long-standing employers. For the loser, the future is looking very, very bleak indeed.