Arsenal-Manchester United Preview
LONDON (SE) - Robin van Persie will face his former side for the first time in Saturday's lunch-time kick-off at Old Trafford between title contenders Manchester United and Arsenal.
Van Persie's £24m transfer to Sir Alex Ferguson's side from Arsenal was the biggest move before the start of the Premier League campaign. The Dutchman led the league with 30 goals for the Gunners last season before announcing July 4 on his website that he would not be returning for a ninth season because he disagreed with the direction of the club.
Van Persie became the fifth Arsenal captain to leave the club since 2004, after Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, William Gallas and, in the preseason of 2011, Cesc Fabregas.
The striker has made a quick impact with Manchester United. He is tied with Newcastle United forward Demba Ba for the league lead with seven goals entering this weekend, and has a goal or an assist in each of his seven Premier League starts.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, had planned for a future without van Persie by signing France striker Olivier Giroud and Germany forward Lukas Podolski in the close season.
Manchester United enter in second place on 21 points while Arsenal are sixth with 15. This corresponding fixture last season was an 8-2 victory for United highlighted by Wayne Rooney's hat trick.
United also won the reverse fixture 2-1 at the Emirates. Van Persie scored two of Arsenal's goals against United.
Ferguson's side is on an 8-1-1 run in all competitions in this series, including a 7-0-1 mark at Old Trafford since the Gunners won 1-0 on Sept. 17, 2006 in the league.
United continue to lead the league with 24 goals while Arsenal own the best defence having conceded six.
Goals, however, could be in the offering based on how these clubs fared in mid-week in League Cup ties that required extra time.
Arsenal came back from four goals down Tuesday for a 7-5 victory at Reading. Theo Walcott capped his hat trick with the go-ahead goal in the 120th minute before Marouane Chamakh added his second for the final margin.
"I'm absolutely knackered now," Walcott said. "We've scored seven goals away from home - it was great going forward. Maybe defensively it wasn't great at times, but we're in the draw and that's what matters.''
Manchester United blew three one-goal leads in a 5-4 loss to Chelsea on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge. The Blues took the match into extra time on Eden Hazard's penalty in stoppage time.
"We've thrown it away, really," Ferguson said. "We've got possession of the ball in the last third of the field in the last seconds of the game."
The Red Devils had a better outcome at Stamford Bridge on Sunday in the league with a 3-2 victory on Javier Hernandez's 75th-minute goal.
Arsenal left it even later Saturday in a 1-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers on Mikel Arteta's tally in the 84th minute.
Manchester United have 13 different league goal scorers this season while Arsenal have 14 overall.
The Red Devils defence, however, has yielded 13 goals through nine games for their worst defensive start to a season since 2001-02, when they allowed 14 in that span.