Our Bet of the Day for Friday involves an FA Cup Fourth Round match between two clubs who dearly wish it were still the late 90s or early 00s. Arsenal and Manchester United, and the battle between the two, dominated English football between 1997 and 2004. These days, one or the other might take the fourth Champions League spot in the Premier League – and there is the chance of glory in the FA Cup for one of them, too.
That chance will – a draw notwithstanding – end for one of these sides tonight. In contrast with the era when these sides ruled the roost, former managers Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger will merely be watching this contest tonight, and remembering the epic semi-final (and even better replay) that their teams played out in 1999. Present on the pitch in that replay for United was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who now caretaker-manages the Red Devils, and will be hoping to draw on history to get one over on his opposite number, the newly-minted Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
Rashford To Keep Hot Streak Going?
Part of the resurgence Solskjaer has been able to implement since the sacking of Jose Mourinho is down to the renewed goalscoring touch of Marcus Rashford, who has apparently benefited from one-on-one coaching from the Norwegian. As the current incumbent in the Manchester United dugout is one of the best finishers the club has had in the modern era, that’s been good news for Rashford, who has scored in each of United’s last four league games. While he did not notch in the Third Round win over Reading, it’s worth remembering that he was rotated to the bench for that game, and “OGS” is unlikely to weaken his side in the same way here.
With a home game against Burnley next up for the Old Trafford side, it may be that the most productive players start here with some then rested for the Clarets’ visit. That being the case, 888sport’s price of 8/5 on Rashford notching here has to be considered a worthwhile punt. The young striker is full of confidence right now, and will be keen to keep the goals flowing – while Solskjaer is hoping to win his eighth consecutive match since taking over at United, and can be expected to “go for it” here.
Gunners Slight Favourites To Win
With home advantage, and the confidence boost from an impressive 2-0 win over Chelsea last weekend, in their favour, Arsenal can come into this game with some self-belief. Emery likes his teams to press the opposition where possible, and this was brilliantly outlined in the Chelsea game, which saw Gunners players applying pressure to their opposition in all areas of the field. Solskjaer’s United are less concerned with slowly building from the back than are Mauricio Sarri’s Chelsea, so this game may end up less one-sided than last weekend’s.
Nonetheless, a reinvigorated Arsenal will fancy their chances of progressing here, and in a game which is likely to have its twists and turns, our Bet of the Day is on Arsenal to win and the game to feature at least three goals. That’s 12/5 at William Hill, and given the presence of strikers as prolific as Rashford, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette, seems like a very attractive bet.
A Classic For The Ages?
Neither of these sides has managed to have the defensive tightness that they would both have hoped for at the start of the season. For Arsenal, this is partly because there has been a series of injuries to key players in their defence, and when seeking to learn the ways of a new manager it’s important to have the stability they have been denied. For United, there has been no one reason. It started with Mourinho not picking the same team for any two games in a row and, since Solskjaer has taken over, he’s been focused on building their attack more so than anything further back. This could be great news for the neutrals, as it means this game could have goals.
We’ve mentioned the classic replay from twenty years ago – a match that ended 2-1 to United after extra time. That was a game between two sides with great attacks and defences. On this occasion both are pretty sparky in attack, but lack the solidity of their predecessors If you fancy taking a punt, then Betway have one you might be interested in. Initially, they had odds of 20/1 on United taking this game 3-2. They have, however, used an Odds Boost to lift those odds to 25/1 – not bad value, as it’s a result which could very well happen.
Overall, we’d back Arsenal to win here, but do bear in mind that this has all the hallmarks of a closely-fought battle, so keep that in mind if you’re having a bet on the game.
Bet of The Day:
Arsenal to win with >3 goals in game (12/5 at William Hill); Marcus Rashford to score any time (8/5 with 888sport); Betway’s 25/1 on United to win 3-2.