Mikel Arteta has suggested that our players have had to learn some tough lessons following our defeat to Manchester United earlier in the season.
The Red Devils are the only team to have defeated us this campaign after they succeeded 3-1 at Old Trafford back in September. However, since then we’ve not looked back and now sit eight points ahead of our opponents on Sunday, as we aim to remain undefeated on home turf.
Mikel feels that loss proved to be a valuable learning experience for our squad, as they have since shown plenty of resilience and composure to see out difficult moments in games to come away with all three points time and again.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, he said: “There were some important lessons about that game and the reason why we lost it. In many moments we were in total control of the day.
“But we know that’s one of the qualities of Man United – when you are in control of the match, the game gets away from you because they have so much individual talent, good organisation and many ways to create problems. We’ll have to be at our best to win on Sunday.”
United come into this game on the back of a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace on Wednesday, ending a nine-game winning streak in all competitions. Having endured a tricky start to life in Manchester, Erik ten Hag has pushed his side up the table and progressed in three cup competitions, and that is something that has impressed Mikel from afar.
“I think he’s turned things around pretty quickly,” he said. “He has implemented a very clear way of playing. I think the players seem like they’ve bought into it, they have really good energy around the place. And a lot of things have changed in a very short period of time so credit to him and the coaching staff for what they’ve done.”
Much has been made of the Brazilian enforcer Casemiro missing the game through suspension, but Arteta doesn’t feel that will make too much of an impact, given the quality our opponents possess right throughout their squad.
With a number of stars on show for both sides, he believes that this particular fixture still holds plenty of relevance around the globe, especially now we head into the game top of the table with United trying to chip away at our eight-point advantage.
“[Casemiro] didn’t play in our first game either and we still didn’t do enough to win that match,” Mikel reflected. “When you look at the squad that they have, it’s just incredible. The individuals and the collective organisation can beat any opponent in this league and we’ll plan the game knowing that he is not available.
“I think the history and the clashes and the way those two clubs have competed, it tells you everything that you need to know before the match. It’s a huge game in the league, in the country, around the world and we have to prepare for that.
“The table says what it says this season right now but our main focus is on being prepared for a big match.”
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