Declan Rice: The Future Rodri at Arsenal and Potential Savior for Man United's Season


Arsenal travel to Manchester United needing a win to go back top of the Premier League, while their opponents are scrapping for a top six place. 

Ahead of the clash at Old Trafford, Danny Murphy provides his analysis.  

UNITED NEED TO PLAY THREE AT THE BACK

I know it’s not in the usual Manchester United DNA but they have to give Arsenal respect by playing with a back five.

I was at Selhurst Park on Monday to see United torn apart 4-0 and a major issue was Kobbie Mainoo being isolated as a defensive protector.

United must play three at the back against Arsenal. Aaron Wan-Bissaka should play centrally

United must play three at the back against Arsenal. Aaron Wan-Bissaka should play centrally

Scott McTominay and Kobbie Mainoo should play together as defensive protectors

Scott McTominay and Kobbie Mainoo should play together as defensive protectors 

If the fit-again Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes joined Mainoo and then the wing-backs stepped up, it would clog up midfield and keep United in the game.

The other advantage of 5-3-2 is that United would have two up top to disrupt Gabriel and William Saliba. Rasmus Hojlund won’t be able to do much on his own. Having Alejandro Garnacho or Marcus Rashford close by gives the Gunners something to think about.

Having two holders also allows Fernandes to play with freedom. We saw at Palace that United offer virtually nothing in an attacking sense without him. 

You have to treat Arsenal as a different challenge. Arteta doesn’t have a dynamic left-back to call upon, so having Amrabat or even Garnacho as a right wing-back is not as big a risk as you’d think. United haven’t looked fit or strong enough all season. If McTominay and Amrabat are ready, they have to start.

DECLAN A PERFECT FIT 

There can be no higher compliment to pay Declan Rice than to say he’s en route to becoming another Rodri, the most important player at Manchester City.

Rice is one of the players of the season. You can’t believe it’s his first season at Arsenal. The transition after leaving West Ham has been seamless. He has embraced the pressure of having to win every week.

Declan Rice is on his way to being the next Rodri, having transitioned seamlessly to Arsenal

Declan Rice is on his way to being the next Rodri, having transitioned seamlessly to Arsenal

United would have benefited hugely by signing Rice but I’m not sure they’d have ever got him. The fit with Arsenal looks perfect, from being in London to the connection with Arteta.

As good as Rice is, he wouldn’t have been able to turn United’s fortunes around on his own. He’d be in a team struggling to get possession and dominate games. I don’t think Declan will be walking around Old Trafford thinking: ‘Oh no, I wish I played for these.’

HOLD FIRE ON HOJLUND

I’m dubious about whether Rasmus Hojlund is the world-class No 9 United need.

There is nothing in his game that scares defenders. I contrast him to Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez, who is erratic but will do a mad bit of skill or make an aggressive dash to cause some problems for defenders.

Hojlund is not quick, skilful or clever enough for that ‘Wow’ factor. He’s 21 and has time to develop. But right now, he is not a Champions League or Premier League-winning No 9.

There is nothing in Rasmus Hojlund's game that scares defenders, no 'wow' factor to him

There is nothing in Rasmus Hojlund’s game that scares defenders, no ‘wow’ factor to him

SET PLAYS CAN HURT YOU

Arsenal are dangerous at corners and free-kicks. Any work on stopping them is wasted if you don’t mark properly, so United have to go man-for-man. It is simple if players know which opponent they must be responsible for.

The north London derby showed if you don’t halt Arsenal at set-pieces, it can cost you.

FANS PLAY THEIR PART

As an ex-player, I can tell you supporters make a difference to the way you perform.

I was impressed by United’s fans at Palace as they stayed at the end and still sang their hearts out.

The Stretford End must emulate the away fans because it’ll give United’s players a big lift in a difficult game.

Arsenal are dangerous from corners - as Spurs learned - and United should mark man-to-man

Arsenal are dangerous from corners – as Spurs learned – and United should mark man-to-man

SABITZER IS MISSED

Along with Jadon Sancho reaching the Champions League final during his Old Trafford exile, another name in Dortmund’s team is familiar to United fans.

Marcel Sabitzer was not a creative genius in his loan spell last season but he was a workaholic and contributed to their Carabao Cup final and FA Cup semi-final wins.

Sabitzer’s graft and commitment in midfield has been missed in a difficult season for United.

Here’s my possible United XI to frustrate Arsenal (5-3-2): Onana; Amrabat, Wan-Bissaka, Casemiro, Evans, Dalot; McTominay, Mainoo, Fernandes; Hojlund, Rashford or Garnacho.



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