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How Manchester United can beat Arsenal - an Arsenal fan's view

Arsenal fan Shane Thomas explains how Manchester United can go about securing another victory at the Emirates as they take play on Sunday in the Premier League

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

One of the more frustrating aspects of Arsene Wenger's stewardship of Arsenal is his propensity to leave things to chance. From leaving his goalkeeper position exposed until acquiring Petr Cech, to not signing Morgan Schneiderlin because he already has Francis Coquelin, or seeming to explain away habitual errors as little more than bad luck, Arsenal - as shown on Tuesday night against Olympiacos - have ensconced themselves in a paradoxical state of losing matches in a manner that is both inexplicable, and all too expected.

As Manchester United come to the Emirates on Sunday afternoon, it is a game I approach with inmost dread. One looks at Louis Van Gaal's side, and - despite their stuttering performances - can discern a number of areas where they can easily exploit Arsenal.

There are the more obvious weak spots: making use of set-pieces; ensuring Anthony Martial sets up camp down Arsenal's inside-right channel to use his pace against either Per Mertesacker or Gabriel; letting Wayne Rooney do what he always does against Arsenal, which is score.

Another potential advantage for United is to follow the template West Ham set on the season's opening day. Slaven Bilic got his charges to outnumber Arsenal's midfield two by getting three, and sometimes four, to suffocate the centre of the pitch, completely negating the passing strength of Santi Cazorla. One suspects Van Gaal will also want midfield supremacy, so it would makes sense to get Ander Herrera (fitness permitting) to play in concert with two of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Michael Carrick, and the aforementioned Schneiderlin.

A potential silver lining for pessimistic Gooners like me is United's recent use of a 4-2-3-1, with the seemingly undroppable Rooney playing behind Martial, instead of an extra midfielder. While their captain will likely be detailed to stymie Cazorla, you wonder if the spirit will be willing, but the body weak to fulfil that role effectively. If Rooney really has to start, I'd be inclined to start him as the striker in a 4-3-3, and push Martial into a wide position - or use him off the bench.

While much criticism - and some mirth - has been expended towards Van Gaal's philosophy, one area where United have improved under his tenure is in defence. Indeed, it may be the legacy the Dutchman bequeaths to Ryan Giggs. The cavalier era of Sir Alex Ferguson is, if not over, deferred. If United are to have a successful season, it's probably no longer about how well they attack, but how well they defend.

And it should be stated that the narrative about Ferguson being temerarious is pretty reductive. You can afford to have an attacking mindset when you can deploy the Premier League's best attacking talents. But in seasons such as 2000/01 or 2008/09, United relied more on resolve, rather than incursion.

This may seem an odd criticism of Arsene Wenger, but his ultimate weakness is that he appears to be too much of an optimist. Jose Mourinho once explained the reason that David Luiz wasn't a good fit for his Chelsea side is because Luiz was too much of an optimist, elucidating that no defender could play with such a mindset. They couldn't just expect things to all work out in the end. Rather than focusing on what could go right, they should be consumed with worry by what could go wrong, and then act accordingly to ensure that it never happens.

Wenger knows - well, everyone knows - Arsenal at their most efficient are a match for anyone, But what about when they're not? What happens when Memphis gets the run on Bellerin, when Cazorla fails to track a forward run from Rooney or Herrera, or when Theo Walcott finds himself trying to outpace Chris Smalling instead of Daley Blind?

Arsenal are often unable to improvise when the game goes off-script. In fairness, United have difficulties doing the same. But come 6pm on Sunday, we may find out that Van Gaal is a better scriptwriter than Wenger.

You can follow Shane Thomas on Twitter on @tokenbg