Man United looking sharp again


Martinelli has been one of the league’s star players so far. — AP

The feature match in the Premier League tomorrow is Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford, where they take on a rejuvenated Manchester United outfit, led by new manager Erik ten Hag.

The Gunners themselves have a new shine to their game, and if this were maybe 15 or 20 years ago, it would have been touted as the biggest clash of the season.

But it is not. These clubs have fallen on hard times and been overtaken by the wonderful football played by Manchester City and Liverpool. The last time Arsenal won the league was in 2004, and going 10 years now for Man United.

Nonetheless, this contest is expected to be played with great passion as both sides bid to galvanise good starts to the new season.

In Arsenal’s case, they will be attempting to register a sixth straight win – that is how impressive Mikel Arteta’s team has been.

Man United, who brought in ten Hag and spent £227.4mil (RM1.18bil) on signings in the transfer window, are up to fifth place in the standings and have won their last three games on the trot.

This has precipitated an atmosphere of expectancy at the club, and one gets the feeling that this is not like all those false dawns of the past decade.

Much of it is borne from what appears to be ten Hag laying down the law and putting Cristiano Ronaldo in his place.

The arrivals of the much sought-after Brazilian striker Antony from Dutch club Ajax, and goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who joined on loan from Newcastle, have certainly whetted the Red Devils’ appetite.

In particular, Antony’s move has cranked up the hype. Man United were keen on signing him throughout the (northern hemisphere) summer, and his transfer fee of £86mil (RM446mil) is seen as money well spent.

The acquisitions of Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro (£70mil or RM363mil) and Argentine defender Lisandro Martinez (£56.7mil or RM294mil), who joined from Ajax, also appear to make good business sense for Man United.

If anything, Martinez’s pairing with Frenchman Raphael Varane in central defence looks like it solved one of Man United’s biggest headaches since Alex Ferguson left in 2013.

Jadon Sancho, who got the winner against Leicester City, and cost the Manchester club some £73mil (RM378mil) when he moved from Germany just over a year ago, seems to be finding his feet at last. He too could prove important to Man United’s pursuit of glory.

Indeed, this club should make no further excuses about the lack of success or player quality in their attempt to add to their trophy cabinet.

With this, they should also see off Arsenal. But it’s unlikely to be a straightforward thing tomorrow.

Arteta will believe that they can take down Man United in their own backyard, and he has every right to do so.

The Gunners have been consistent so far, even if a couple of the wins were not really top class. They got the job done and that is what counts most.

The inclusion of Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus, who moved from Man City for £45mil (RM233mil), appears to be paying off handsomely for the London club.

Arteta’s faith in a handful of young players also looks like paying dividends.

Winger Gabriel Martinelli, 21, is also looking sharp upfront, and when you throw in the collective effort of the Emirates, you have got what is a relatively strong side.

They may not be strong enough to win the league this season, but do look good enough for a top-four finish – and that would be absolutely first class.

Chelsea, the top spenders in the transfer market with an outlay of £278.4mil (RM1.44bil) have brought in a raft of players which should make them title contenders.

The signings this week of former Arsenal skipper and striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Barcelona for £10.3mil (RM53mil) – Marcos Alonso went the other way – and central defender Wesley Fofana from Leicester for £75mil (RM388.6mil) will strengthen the squad considerably.

It will be interesting to see who Thoamas Tuchel starts with against West Ham today.

The Hammers themselves have done quite a bit of shopping – the third most by any club.

They spent £179.2mil (RM928.5mil) in this transfer window and will be hoping for a decent return, starting with the visit to Stamford Bridge.

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