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Last Updated: Friday, 2 November 2007, 06:57 GMT
Alan Hansen's column
Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Wenger and Ferguson
Wenger said his team 'played without the handbrake on' at Anfield - and Ferguson rarely sends out a team that uses the reverse gear

Arsenal meet Manchester United at The Emirates on Saturday - and after what the two sides produced last weekend it has all the elements of a truly classic encounter.

Arsene Wenger's side were outstanding at Liverpool while United's win against Middlesbrough made it four goals in four successive games for the champions.

So often big games disappoint, but Arsenal's game at Anfield was of the highest quality and everyone will be hoping the confrontation between the Premier League's top two will live up to the huge expectation.

There will be so many crucial areas but the crux will be this - how will Manchester United cope with Arsenal's brilliant passing game and how will Arsenal cope with Manchester United's brilliant counter-attacking game?

It is a game in which markers will be put down by the winner, if indeed there is a winner.

Arsenal would see victory as confirmation of their growing maturity and of their pedigree as potential title winners. United would see a win as assuming a position of superiority over Arsenal for the time being and also as a statement of intent about their desire to retain the Premier League.

It is not a title decider, but whoever wins will have the other contenders sitting up and taking notice.

Cesc Fabregas
There will be battles all over the pitch between players of the highest quality

On the evidence of Arsenal's brilliant display at Liverpool, holding their nerve and sticking firmly to their principles to earn a well-deserved draw, they look serious challengers.

I did have concerns about Arsenal's strength in depth, and the test may still come on that, but they look well-blessed in lots of department and in people like Mathieu Flamini, who looked like he might leave at one point, they have players with versatility.

Arsenal are not going to play well every week, but they have certainly shown they can battle to earn their points, as they did at Liverpool, and even to grind out wins, as they did when they won late on against Sunderland.

They will be put to the test on Saturday, because there will be battles all over the pitch.

In midfield, Cesc Fabregas will be confronted by Owen Hargreaves, while the partnership of Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez will have to try to outwit Kolo Toure and William Gallas.

Arsenal's free-flowing attacking style is guaranteed to bring goals, but they will come up against one of the unsung departments of Manchester United's team.

Wenger said his team "played without the handbrake on" at Anfield - and Ferguson rarely sends out a team that uses reverse gear either.

Much has been made of United's four goals in each of their last four games, but the platform for this improvement in goal return has been laid in defence, where Ferguson's side had a series of crucial 1-0 victories before the goals started to flow and Rooney and Tevez tuned into the same wavelength.

Tevez and Rooney are claiming the headlines and will be a big danger but, when they had a blip of sorts earlier in the season, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were superb, along with keeper Edwin van der Sar.

Vidic even chipped in with the sort of crucial late winner at Everton that could be vital when the points are added up at the end of the campaign.

It will be interesting to see how they cope with Arsenal's wonderful passing game, but United will pose threats of their own.

United look very good at the moment, and have great strength in depth all over the park, but Arsenal will be in confident mood. Let's hope it follows on from that outstanding game at Anfield.

  • Alan Hansen was talking to Phil McNulty



    SEE ALSO
    Comment: Fabregas holds the key
    02 Nov 07 |  Football
    Arsenal run surprises Van der Sar
    02 Nov 07 |  Football Focus
    Rebuilt rivals set for battle
    02 Nov 07 |  Premier League
    Gerrard hails fantastic Fabregas
    29 Oct 07 |  Premier League
    Ronaldo backs Man Utd for double
    30 Oct 07 |  Man Utd


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