By Brian Brownstein
As Manchester United FC travel to Highbury for tonight's much anticipated Premiership match against Arsenal FC, young midfielder Cesc Fabregas is hoping both teams will let their football do the talking.
War of words
The 17-year-old was on the bench as Arsenal lost 2-0 at United on 24 October 2004, in a game made more memorable by the events that followed, including an alleged food fight between players in the tunnel, and a war of words between managers Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson.
"I expect this match to be another physical, fast-paced encounter, but I hope it is not bad-tempered," Fabregas told uefa.com. "We owe it to all the fans who will watch the game on television to make it a spectacle of great football and not an angry occasion. That is my wish.
'Desperately want to beat them'
"Yet, no matter how the game is played, it won't be easy for us to win," he added. "Our games against United are very special and I think it will be close. We desperately want to beat them every time because we know it makes our supporters very happy.
This is the most important game of the season."
Arsenal have won just eight of their 16 Premiership matches since losing in Manchester, as Chelsea FC have stormed to the top of the Premiership - ten points above the second-placed Gunners and eleven clear of United. However, Fabregas denies that United's victory has had anything to do with their stuttering form.
The Spaniard said: "Before the defeat we were in great form, playing our best football in breaking the Premiership unbeaten record, but nothing lasts for ever. We had a few bad matches after Old Trafford but I don't think it was just because of that defeat. All teams have a bad patch in a season and that was ours."
Fabregas was quick to express his admiration for United, saying: "If Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo have a good night they are capable of causing us major problems. They have the pace and skill to unsettle any defence. However, I think the midfield battle is going to be crucial. I look forward to facing Roy Keane - Keane is a United legend and the complete footballer."
Fabregas will have an important say on what influence Keane has on the game. However, he will be given a helping hand by his captain and midfield partner Patrick Vieira. Fabregas, whose vision is remarkable for one so young, looks up to the Frenchman as a guide and role model. He explained: "In years to come I would love to be like him and be as important to the club. I want to be a symbol for the Arsenal fans to look up to, just as they do with Patrick."
Tonight's encounter could effectively decide the title chances of both clubs as they chase Chelsea. The Stamford Bridge team have a commanding lead, yet Fabregas is confident Arsenal can claw them back. "Whatever happens, I still believe Arsenal will catch Chelsea before the end of the season," he said. "Three good wins for us and three bad results for Chelsea will wipe out their lead. All I can say to Chelsea is that in football you can't celebrate until the maths tell you nobody can catch you."
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