Arsene Wenger travels to Old Trafford as Arsenal manager for the last time this Sunday (April 29), and rarely has a match between the two Premier League giants mattered less.
The Frenchman announced last week that the curtain on his 22-year spell with the Gunners will come down at the end of the season. He will be undoubtedly be disappointed that the last meeting against one his old foes doesn’t carry a greater meaning.
With four games left in the Premier League season Arsenal have very little to play for, as they trail fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur by 11 points and are all but guaranteed to finish outside the top four for the second consecutive season.
The Gunners’ hopes of ending the season on a high rest on winning the Europa League, which will give Wenger the first European trophy of his career and earn Arsenal a spot in next season’s Champions League.
If Arsenal have little to play for, the league isn’t Manchester United’s main focus either. The 20-time champions of England kept their season alive last weekend, as they came from behind to beat Spurs 2-1 in the FA Cup semifinal to earn themselves a spot in the final for the second time in three seasons.
As far as the Premier League is concerned, however, United can only aim to consolidate their second spot, given Manchester City clinched the title with five games to go. Jose Mourinho has repeatedly spoken about the importance of finishing second and his team are poised to do so, given they lead third-placed Liverpool by three points with a game in hand.
While United will be disappointed they could not push City all the way, clinching second spot would represent their best league finish since they won the title in 2012-13—Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season in charge.
Despite criticism of Mourinho’s tactics, there’s a feeling United are slowly rediscovering their ability to win big games—this season they have beaten all the other top six teams for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign—and the Portuguese will relish the opportunity to get one over Wenger.
The feud between the two lit up the Premier League just as the latter’s rivalry with Ferguson subsided, and Mourinho is unlikely to present Wenger with a parting gift this weekend.
The Frenchman will also be reacquainted with Alexis Sanchez for the first time since the Chilean swapped the Emirates for Old Trafford—where Arsenal have not won in the league since 2006—in January.
Sanchez’s career at United might have got off to a slow start, but his performances have improved and his goal against Spurs on Saturday was a timely reminder of what Arsenal have lost.
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