Louis van Gaal is expecting a stern examination for Manchester United on Sunday from an Arsenal side eager to bounce back from their Champions League disappointment.
Ahead of the Barclays Premier League contest, United have surged to the top of the table and Van Gaal has spoken confidently about what victory at the Emirates Stadium will do for his team in terms of their belief in their title bid.
He is also a great admirer of Arsenal’s style, though, and has no doubt Arsene Wenger’s men are capable of making a significant response to their 3-2 home loss to Olympiacos on Tuesday.
Asked how he thought the Gunners would be affected on Sunday by the defeat in Europe, the United boss told MUTV: “That I don’t know of course – I am not there, I am here and we are happy.
“But I think Arsenal can come also back off a defeat. They have showed that a lot of times. I think Arsenal are one of the best teams in the league, in a technical and tactical sense – maybe the best. I like the way they play.
“Nevertheless, they haven’t won so much so you have to look for that improvement with their team.”
Van Gaal has expressed concerns about his own side – who played their Champions League game this week on Wednesday, beating Wolfsburg 2-1 – being affected by fatigue.
And he said: “It is very difficult and Arsenal had also one day more because they played the day before us so it shall be a difficult game.”
The Dutchman has also stressed the need for United themselves to get better, despite Wednesday’s victory being their fourth in a row in all competitions.
He added: “We can improve and we have to show it against Arsenal, it is not an easy match but we have to show it.”
Although they have been winning and risen to the Premier League summit, questions over United’s performances have not gone away.
Red Devils midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin earlier this week suggested the team are starting to silence the doubters.
But United defender Phil Jones feels there will always be critical voices and is happy that he and his team-mates have been able to surprise people by climbing to top spot.
“It (being top) is a great boost for us and it raises a few eyebrows,” Jones said. “Hopefully we can keep raising a few more because our results and performances have been very good this season and hopefully we can keep it going.
“When we were winning games, it was never enough goals – it was 4-0, we should have won 10-0. You always get that. They are there to make judgemental comments.”
Jones says United will go to Arsenal “confident” and is personally hoping to get a decent amount of game time.
The 23-year-old England international has been eased into his comeback from thrombosis, making substitute appearances in each of United’s last three games.
And he said: “Having had what I have had, it was the wisest decision. On a number of occasions when I have been injured I have come straight back and been thrown in and it has been difficult.
“But I am fit now, I am itching to play and hopefully I can be a part of it.”