Arsenal favourites against Manchester United but psychological fragility could cost them, warns Gary Neville

Samuel Lovett
The Independent
The last encounter between the two sides ended in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford: Getty
The last encounter between the two sides ended in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford: Getty

Gary Neville believes Arsenal are favourites heading into Sunday’s Premier League clash with Manchester United – a key fixture in the fight for fourth – but has suggested that psychological fragility could cost them.

The two sides currently sit outside of the top four, with United one point behind Manchester City in fourth and Arsenal six back from Pep Guardiola’s side.

A win for United would see Jose Mourinho’s men jump-frog their city rivals and all but end Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. However, victory for Arsene Wenger’s side, who have a game in hand on United, would take the Gunners within two points of the Manchester club.

For Arsenal, the side head into Sunday’s game on the back of 2-0 defeat by Tottenham – one that dealt a huge psychological blow in confirming that Spurs would finish above their north London rivals for the first time in 22 years.

And although United remain in unbeaten in their last 25 league matches, Neville believes that confidence could be an issue for both camps – especially if an early goal is scored.

"It's a game where the result is difficult to call,” he told Sky Sports.

"If United were to score first it would be a very difficult atmosphere. I was there against Manchester City and the atmosphere was strange. It's weird down there at the moment. If United were to go in front it would be a very uncomfortable afternoon for Arsene Wenger and his players.

"It's also the sort of game where if Arsenal score first with United in town, then it could lift everybody.

"There is a lot on this game - United have got a lot of games coming up and there isn't a respite for them. Arsenal have got to be favourites but - psychologically - you just don't know where they are at."

Whereas Arsenal’s focus in recent weeks has been fixed firmly on the fight for a top-four place, United have had to juggle commitments in both the league and abroad – all against the backdrop of a mounting injury crisis which has seen Mourinho lose a number of key players.

The Portuguese has pointed to fixture congestion and suggested the hectic schedule has hindered his side’s cause this season.

Arsenal head into Sunday's clash on the back of defeat at Tottenham (Getty)
Arsenal head into Sunday's clash on the back of defeat at Tottenham (Getty)

Neville agrees that the combination of injuries and a busy schedule are taking their toll on United's squad.

"At the moment, injuries are a big problem and the team is looking more tired by the day," he said.

"I watched the game on a screen at Goodison Park and thought Swansea deserved a point. You need to be more ruthless and clinical against the weaker terms. It comes down to having more quality in the final third."

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