Jose Mourinho may have led his Manchester United side out of a dreadful run of one win in seven Premier League matches with a 3-1 victory at struggling Swansea, but the Special One will have to be worthy of his moniker if the Red Devils are to build on that triumph at home to Arsenal.
United began the campaign with a backline of Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, £30m new signing Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw, yet none of that quartet lined up for the win in south Wales.
Valencia could return after missing his side’s past three matches with a broken arm, but centre-half pairing Smalling and Bailly aren’t due back until the second week of December, while what’s happening with Shaw is still something of a mystery.
Mourinho criticised the two England defenders – who were expected to become club-and-country stalwarts for many years – after they missed the Swansea victory due to reporting pain prior to kick off, with some media sources suggesting the 53-year-old wants to sell Smalling and Shaw.
Defensive reinforcements Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind – the latter pair nominally left-backs covering at centre-half – are also thought to be in the shop window, with United linked with the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin and Benfica’s Victor Lindeloff in recent weeks.
Such talk hardly makes for harmony within a squad, especially considering fellow first-teamers such as Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial – bought for fees totalling over £80m combined 18 months ago – could be forgiven for feeling underused.
Fresh bad news came during the international break courtesy of captain Wayne Rooney making the headlines after staying up late boozing ahead of England’s 2-2 friendly draw with Spain, which the forward was always going to sit out.
The only thing United appear to have going for them ahead of Arsenal’s visit is their manager’s near faultless record against the Gunners in 11 Premier League games as Chelsea boss, with his only defeat to Arsene Wenger and co coming in the 2015 Community Shield.
However, the Gunners are unbeaten on the road this season and have won their past five away matches in all competitions, scoring 16 goals along the way, so Mourinho’s men could hardly have picked a worse time to take them on.
Arsenal are 23/2 to clear a two-goal handicap at Old Trafford.