I might be clutching at straws a little, but there’s a small amount of evidence to suggest that our best results against Manchester United in recent times come during difficult periods.
Now is certainly one of those periods. After we looked like recovering a season that looked lost as soon as it started, we are now being shown up for our weaknesses again, with the recent defeat to Swansea feeling like another of many ‘final straw’ moments that we’ve experienced in recent seasons; another on the long list of new lows.
But as recently as last season, when we fell apart after the Carling Cup final and lost many games in what was arguably the easiest run-in of the top sides, we still managed a 1-0 win over Fergie’s team, on their way to a record-breaking 19th title. This was one of only two wins in the league following our sad day at Wembley, and it wasn’t representative of the form of either side at the time.
Similarly, back in 08/09, a horrible season for the most part, we’d just drawn 4-4 in that ridiculous game with Spurs and lost 2-1 to newly-promoted Stoke. United on the other hand looked stronger than ever having added £30million Dimitar Berbatov to their star-studded attack of Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez. I remember predicting, for the first time, that United would thrash us 4-0 that day at the Emirates, but they didn’t show up, and two Nasri goals shocked the Champions of both England Europe.
And of course, going back a couple of seasons again to 06/07, we ended a winless start to the season with an excellent 1-0 win at Old Trafford, against a United side who had started well and would go on to win the league that year.
Meanwhile, much stronger Arsenal sides failed to register wins against much weaker United sides between 2002 and 2006, including the Invincibles. And again when we were stronger in 07/08 and 09/10 we ended up on the losing side a few times.
History is perhaps a little meaningless, and can be misleading. For instance, we were awful at the start of this season and got hammered 8-2. Another hiding like that could be just around the corner, but I guess there’s always the hope that, as has happened before, form will go out the window for this fixture and we’ll somehow capitalise on our status as underdogs. Let’s not forget that United have had a LOT of luck against us with refereeing decisions in particular on many occasion. If we raise our game we are capable of causing an upset.