United counting on Rooney and van Persie
ARSENAL v MAN UNITED
(Tomorrow, 1.30am, SingTel mio TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Manchester United might not top the Premier League these days, but they're out in front on the league's table of injuries.
An astonishing 10 separate problems have robbed them of Luke Shaw, Daley Blind, Michael Carrick, Marcos Rojo, Rafael da Silva, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Radamel Falcao, Jonny Evans and Jesse Lingard.
That will pile the pressure on their remaining players ahead of this crucial clash with Arsenal tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
How Louis van Gaal must have wished that he could go into this game with Falcao and di Maria at his disposal.
Fortunately, at least two of the remaining players are big enough to cope with the loss.
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie were two of the biggest transfers of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, but neither has settled well since the end of the old era.
Rooney struck 17 league goals last season, a perfectly respectable haul, but three were penalties and his wider contribution was far from convincing.
His last interaction with Ferguson was a war of words over an alleged transfer request.
Former manager David Moyes did everything he could to try and settle Rooney, but with mixed results.
But Rooney is the ultimate confidence player.
There are few footballers who veer between the excellent and the awful like the United front man.
At his best, he can be absolutely unplayable, a box of fireworks that could go off at any time.
At his worst, he looks like he doesn't want to be there.
After his heroics in an England shirt, however, the omens are good.
Rooney is a man who attracts criticism, and with some justification.
There could be no criticism of his efforts this week.
Both of his goals against Scotland were well taken and well executed.
If he takes that confidence into this game, Arsenal will have much to concern them.
The Gunners are a team with mental issues once again.
Having done so much to prove that they could be resilient and strong, recent weeks have seen familiar problems creeping into their play.
Rooney's aggression and drive are the last thing they need.
Or perhaps, it's the second from last thing that they need.
Worse still is the prospect of being bested again by their former hero van Persie.
The Dutchman has scored against his old club in three of his four meetings against them, the only blank coming in February when the two sides drew 0-0 at the Emirates Stadium.
They hate him now with as much passion as they used to love him.
Rooney hasn't scored against Arsenal since his hat-trick in the astonishing 8-2 victory at Old Trafford in August 2011, but van Persie has no such issue to contend with.
The only problem for van Persie is that he hasn't scored too many for United anywhere else.
A strike against Latvia might give him the same surge of confidence that Rooney should enjoy, but he's scored only three for his club this campaign, the last of which was a tap-in against Chelsea.
Van Persie was a shadow of his former self for Moyes.
He has since admitted that Ferguson's decision to retire shook him to his core.
He enjoyed a close relationship with Ferguson, once jumping into his arms to celebrate a goal and nearly knocking him to the floor. He did not have the same bond with Moyes.
He has something of a bond with van Gaal, forged at international level, but it hasn't carried over to his performances on the pitch yet.
Now would be a very good time.
United are decimated by injuries and cannot be expected to play anywhere near their potential.
But, given Arsenal's weaknesses of late, they may not need to.
What they do need, without question, is for Rooney and van Persie to bring their very best to the occasion.