Date: 28th April 2009 at 2:59pm
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For the third successive year, Manchester United are in the Champions League semi-final. This time we face a side which has little experience of this stage of the competition: Arsenal. However, they have plenty of experience of playing against United so a great battle is to be expected. We shall have a look at which duels can decide the tie.

Berbatov and Giggs v Song

Yes, Song. I expect the Cameroonian to play the defensive midfielder position and his task will be the deny Berbatov the space in which he likes to operate. Berba received plenty of undeserved stick from United fans but showed against Spurs what can he do when he’s got runners around him.

Also, Ryan Giggs is likely to start and he will be the other who’ll try to dictate the play for United. I am tempted to say that Tevez should start instead of him: Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo would cause Arsenal no ends of problem if Berbatov was pulling the strings from a deeper position. But I don’t mind if they share the task with Giggs – however, they must get the better of Alex Song.

Fabregas v Anderson

Arsenal’s Spanish playmaker is set to play as a second forward behind Emmanuel Adebayor. It will be up to Anderson to stop him from pulling the strings in front of our back line. Fabregas has many strengths but pace is not one of them and the ease with which Anderson dealt with him in the FA Cup game last season bodes well for us. Still, the Brazilian must be as disciplined and committed as he was against Porto to stop Fabregas.

Walcott v Evra

In the absence of Arshavin and Van Persie, much is expected of Theo Walcott. Evra is not in the form of his life and he struggled mightily against Aaron Lennon. The question is, does Lennon have some psychological hold on Evra or he’s uncomfortable against small, pacy players who have a low centre of gravity? His handling of Messi suggests the first option… But he must be totally focused throughout because Walcott’s pace will seriously test him.

Rooney v the Arsenal back four

Rooney will probably start on the left, cutting inside at every opportunity, roaming all over the pitch if possible. He’s a in a rich vein of form so it will be a nightmare for Arsenal’s defence to mark him.

However, he also has to provide cover for Evra and help to cut off the supply to Walcott. Hopefully the discipline he usually displays in Europe will be combined with his sheer dynamism in attack – in that case we could have a memorable night.