The Dossier: Moyes & Manchester United must disrupt Arsenal's pass masters

The champions may resort to a more physical approach in order to knock the likes of Mikel Arteta and Mesut Ozil off their game as they bid to haul in the table-topping Gunners
With Arsenal's stunning 1-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday evening added to their professional dismantling of Liverpool last Saturday, a tough task for Manchester United just got that bit harder.

The Gunners lead the Premier League by five points – ahead of the Red Devils by eight – sit top of a difficult Champions League group, and travel to Old Trafford brimming with confidence.

ARTETA 93.9%
OZIL 87%
RAMSEY 86.6%
The signing of Mesut Ozil has galvanised a squad on the cusp of realising their potential, with Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky standing up to be counted for Wenger’s side like never before.

For thier part, United have steadied the ship after a stormy start to Moyes’ reign at Old Trafford, winning three of their past four games and blowing Fulham away at Craven Cottage last weekend with three goals in the opening 22 minutes.

Doubts remain over the Premier League champions though; an anaemic display against Real Sociedad on Tuesday was hardly the best preparation for the visit of Europe’s form team, and question marks linger over Moyes' formations.

By contrast, Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 system has allowed his players to shine this season, with disciplined distributors in defensive midfield vital in allowing the creative talents ahead to wreak havoc.

Goal exclusively revealed on Thursday that Mathieu Flamini will return after a two-week absence, and is likely to partner the formidable Ramsey with the Welshman granted the licence to get forward at every opportunity.

By shackling the pair and forcing Arsenal’s attacking midfielders back to alleviate the pressure on Ramsey and Flamini, United can prevent the Gunners from finding gaps in the final third - an area highlighted as a weakness by West Brom, and a necessity given the duo's pass success rates of 86% and 93% respectively this season.

For that reason, Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia may start ahead of Shinji Kagawa and Adnan Januzaj: a higher work rate appeals to Moyes’ intrinsic sense of caution, and Welbeck’s performance against Xabi Alonso despite United's defeat to Real Madrid last season should make a start on the left a certainty.

Further up the Gunners' field, Giroud should shake off a niggling knee strain to feature. The striker doesn't have the pace to trouble top defenders, but with an average of 4.5 aerial duels won per game, Nemanja Vidic (also with a 4.5 average) and his central partner on the day will have to be alert to his physicality.

It goes without saying these sides have history, and many fans still hark back to the 'golden age' of when both teams viciously fought for supremacy in the early 2000s, culminating in the infamous 'Pizzagate' incident.

Wenger may still wince when he thinks back to 2004 when the Neville brothers butchered Jose Antonio Reyes, and stats suggest he will have reason to be wary again.

Sascha Riether's stamp on Adnan Januzaj may have stolen the headlines last weekend, but United committed 12 fouls to Fulham's six. At Sociedad it was 16 to Real's eight, with Marouane Fellaini sent off late on.

The Red Devils are developing a nasty streak, and there could be a flurry of yellow cards for the hosts in an attempt to quash the intricacy of the visitors.

It won't all be about quelling the threat of Arsenal for Moyes' men though: the 'SAS' of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez are making headlines for Liverpool, yet United’s very own R & R – Rooney and Robin van Persie – dovetailed beautifully to blast away Fulham.

The duo’s propensity to alternate dropping deep makes it a nightmare for centre-backs to mark either one, and Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny’s partnership will be stretched to its limits given the German's lack of mobility.

Sunday's clash will undoubtedly be a major test for both sides. For Moyes, a loss would leave an 11-point gap that would cast an early shadow over his attempts to build on Sir Alex Ferguson's legacy.

For Wenger, it is an opportunity to see whether his side have the temperament to go with their unquestionable talent.

With so much at stake, we may finally see a return to the classic matches of old between two battle-scarred sides where grudges linger just beneath the surface. Pizza anyone?