‘Don’t deserve’ - Arsenal sent clear Premier League title race message ahead of Man United clash

Mikel Arteta celebrates his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and AFC Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium.
Mikel Arteta celebrates his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and AFC Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium. -Credit:Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has said that Arsenal won’t ‘deserve’ to be champions if they slip up against his former club over the weekend.

The Gunners travel to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon looking to keep the pressure on Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title. They will face a United side licking their wounds after falling to a 4-0 hammering against Crystal Palace on Monday night.

That result and performance have increased the pressure on manager Erik ten Hag. United currently sit in eighth place in the Premier League with not qualifying for European football a real possibility.

It also comes amid an injury crisis at Old Trafford that has led to Casemiro playing at centre-back. It’s those factors that make the game against United a must-win for Arsenal, says Ferdinand.

“I think if Arsenal lose against Man United in this game, they don’t deserve to be champions,” he said on his FIVE podcast . “Because you’re going to a team that’s depleted, lacking confidence, almost nothing to play for in the league now, and they’re the teams you want to play against in the run-in.

“I remember playing in the title run-ins, if we were seven or eight games out towards the end of the season you’re thinking: ‘Just give me a team that have got nothing to play for and have a few injuries as well’, they’re already booking their holiday on the beach. Man United for me are in that bracket, bar the cup final, all these other games in the league is just about personal pride for now.

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“Is there enough of that there? I think there are a lot of question marks on Manchester United but Arsenal players will be able to go ‘There’s so many question marks there, we can’t be going into that match thinking can we?’ It should be ‘We’re going to deal with these, roll them over, and carry on with our task to try and win the league. That’s how Arsenal players should be thinking right now.”

The game at Old Trafford is Arsenal’s penultimate game of the season. They end their campaign by hosting already safe Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, 19 May (4pm kick-off).

Man City meanwhile face Fulham at Craven Cottage in Saturday’s early kick-off before playing their game in hand away at Tottenham on Tuesday night. They then host West Ham at the Etihad Stadium in their final game of the season.