Goals may flow as Man United host Arsenal
Arsenal will be desperate to stop their former talismanic striker, who scored 37 goals for the Gunners in all competitions last term before joining United in August where he has continued to find the net ahead of the Old Trafford clash.
The Londoners, though, had no trouble without him on Tuesday when they sealed a remarkable 7-5 extra-time win at Reading in the League Cup after trailing 4-0 at one stage in an extraordinary match.
Winger Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick and boss Arsene Wenger says he can play as a striker, a sticking point in contract negotiations, but a berth up front at United seems too soon.
"I always said that he will be a striker, so we are on the same wavelength there," Wenger told reporters having struggled to replace Van Persie.
"Secondly, I believe he knows where to be in the box on the rebounds. I like that - that's a quality of a striker that you cannot give to anybody. You feel it or you don't."
The last time United scored as many as seven in a game was August last year when they beat Arsenal 8-2 at home but they have netted consistently this season, losing Wednesday's League Cup last 16 clash 5-4 at Chelsea after extra time.
Arsenal are sixth while United will start Saturday's Premier League encounter in second after their controversial 3-2 win against leaders Chelsea last Sunday in the first of two back-to-back games between the sides.
United raced into a quickfire 2-0 lead at Stamford Bridge last Sunday with an own goal from David Luiz after four minutes and Van Persie's ninth goal of the season eight minutes later.
Chelsea clawed the score back to 2-2 before Javier Hernandez's offside winner for United in a match which encapsulated United's season so far - strong in attack and fragile at the back.
The League Cup game, albeit with many reserves playing, mirrored that.
"From a spectator's point of view it was a terrific game of football. You're getting your money's worth with nine goals, there's no doubt about that," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "We only have ourselves to blame, really."
Wenger will be wondering which Arsenal show up at Old Trafford - the one that played so poorly in the first half at Reading or the one that powered their way to an incredible victory even if it too was a much-changed side for the cup.
Chelsea lost their unbeaten league record when they were beaten by United but remain top by a point even if life is rarely plain-sailing for the European champions, who visit Swansea City on Saturday.
After losing to United, Chelsea accused match referee Mark Clattenburg of using "inappropriate language" to Nigerian John Obi Mikel.
The fallout has dominated English football all week with both the English FA and the Metropolitan Police now investigating the allegations.
ERRATIC WEST HAM
Chelsea travel to Wales without their skipper John Terry, who will serve the last game of four-match domestic ban for racially insulting Anton Ferdinand of Queens P