Just when Manchester United’s fans were beginning to dream of a first Premier League title since 2013 along came bottom club Sheffield United to offer a reality check.
United’s shock 2-1 home defeat by Chris Wilder’s side not only stopped Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team returning to the top of the table, it also snapped a 13-game unbeaten league run.
So Saturday’s trip to a rejuvenated Arsenal has suddenly assumed greater significance, with Manchester City now above their second-placed city rivals by a point with a game in hand.
Was the Sheffield debacle a blip or was it evidence that the early-season gremlins that had placed Solskjaer under such pressure in November are still lurking at Old Trafford?
Victory at the Gunners, who United lost to at home on November 1 before embarking on 10 wins and three draws, would go a long way to proving that the former is the more likely.
“When you get kicked down, it’s how quickly you bounce back and Saturday’s a big one and we’ve got to get three points,” skipper Harry Maguire said after the defeat by Sheffield United.
“We are disappointed, it hurts, but we’ve got to pick ourselves up and bounce back.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal will be relishing the visit of United.
Mikel Arteta’s side may still be down in ninth place but they are the form team in the division with five wins and a draw from their last six league games.
Like Solskjaer, Arteta was coming under fire with Arsenal plunging towards the relegation zone but they have suddenly clicked and have scored 10 goals in their last four games while conceding one – in a fine 3-1 win at Southampton on Tuesday.