The Gunners can earn replay at Old Trafford


MANCHESTER UNITED and Arsenal leave their battle for European football next season aside for the moment as they vie for a place in the FA Cup semi-finals.

It’s the only silverware United have a chance of getting their hands on and it’s a similar situation for the Gunners after a catastrophe at home to Monaco in the Champions League.

Louis van Gaal couldn’t have wished for an easier path to the last eight in a run that has seen United face Yeovil, Cambridge United and Preston. Yet each side ran United close and League Two’s Cambridge United earned a replay back at Old Trafford.

Arsenal have had to negotiate their way past Hull, Brighton and current Championship table toppers Middlesbrough – all without needing a replay – yet Monday’s hosts provide the sternest test to date.

A smash and grab 1-0 win at the Emirates in November kept up United’s recent hold over the Gunners that has seen them avoid defeat in their past seven meetings across all competitions. Even David Moyes steered United to a 1-0 victory before his departure.

His successor, van Gaal, was brought in to return United to the halcyon days, but the jury is still out as his side sit in fourth with 10 games remaining.

Functional football was the main course at St James’ Park on Wednesday as United snatched a late winner and a successive clean sheet. It’s now two defeats in 22 and although United lack fluidity, they are a tough team to crack at home.

Back in London, Olivier Giroud’s eighth strike in 10 league games got the Gunners underway at Queens Park Rangers as they survived a late rally to secure a 17th win from 22 matches. Arsene Wenger will have been delighted to see Alexis Sanchez back amongst the goals to cap off a fine second-half performance that could have been better were it not for in-form Robert Green.

The Gunners come up against another top shot-stopper at Old Trafford in the shape of David de Gea. He made another vital save at the death against the Magpies and has helped United to concede just twice in their past four games here.

Despite some uninspiring performances, United make life tricky for opponents and a draw is expected on Monday. Betway are offering 23/10 for a replay and I’d take that price. Spread bettors should sell goals at 2.7 with Sporting Index following United’s recent resurgence at the back.

■ Pointers…
Draw at 23/10 with Betway
Sell total goals at 2.7 with Sporting Index