Manchester United vs Arsenal: The Key Battles

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Manchester United vs Arsenal will probably be more exciting when it happens at The Emirates, but this match still is, even if not the biggest match on planet since Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2005, one of the most anticipated clashes in English football.

Not quite the 'return of Robin van Persie' too. This match is more like 'Van Persie welcomes you... for the first time.' But Arsene Wenger has already requested his travelling fans (around 5000 people who will be outnumbered by around 70,000 home fans) to show some respect to their former captain, leader and could have been legend.

Off the pitch, it will be talked about a lot, but here are the on-field battles that could decide who wins. AFP

Off the pitch, it will be talked about a lot, but here are the on-field battles that could decide the winner.

Robin van Persie vs Thomas Vermaelen: Former Arsenal captain vs current Arsenal captain — this one will be a vital battle. Van Persie will have come up against Vermaelen hundreds of times in training, and it's time to put all that they learnt about each other to use. There's Laurent Koscielny too of course, but we think the current Gunners skipper will possibly get to RVP more often than the Frenchman. He's a clean challenger of the ball, having received just one booking in eight EPL appearances. RVP has seven goals in nine league matches and he's a man in form.

Wayne Rooney vs Mikel Arteta: The two players will go head on against each other. Arteta, since his arrival from Everton has shifted to a deeper midfield role, allowing either Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby and most recently Jack Wilshere to go forward. That means Rooney will have to get past the crafty Spaniard to dictate play. He will find space no doubt, but he will have to be at his defensive best too when it comes to stopping Arteta ghost forward.

Patrice Evra vs Theo Walcott: Walcott's show against Reading in the League Cup and Gervinho's injury means the English winger should get the nod ahead of Aaron Ramsey (who has occasionally played on the wing). Walcott is a player whose performances depend a lot on how confident he is... and going by his majestic hat-trick in midweek, Evra will have quite a task on his hands.

Michael Carrick vs Santi Cazorla: Santi will probably win this battle — he has more pace, more energy, more agility and a better shot on goal. He goes out wide, drags men towards him and creates space in the middle. Carrick hasn't done that badly this season either. He has become a very good game-breaker but Cazorla is 'Mr. Twinkle Toes' and draws a lot of fouls. Expect this battle to have a huge consequence on the match.

Rafael vs Lukas Podolski: The quick 'I love to bomb forward' right-back vs Germany's efficient forward. Now this one's a bit weird because Podolski is excellent at tracking back and won't give Rafael as much space as other teams afford him. And Rafael's a guy who loves going forward and doesn't track back so well. This battle will depend on who capitalises on that one moment when both players forget about each other.

Antonio Valencia vs Andre Santos: Valencia showed why he is so dangerous by setting up the 2nd goal for RVP against Chelsea. He will be expected to do just that and Andre Santos could be an easy opponent to come up against. He isn't as disciplined as Carl Jenkinson when it comes to defending and Valencia will exploit this habit. Valencia's ability on the touchline means space constantly opens up in the middle and that should allow the others to swarm forward.

These are just the top five battles. If Jack Wilshere plays, he will be up against fellow Englishman Tom Cleverley and Olivier Giroud will have to get past Rio Ferdinand if he is to repay the faith Arsene Wenger is showing in him.