Per Mertesacker relishing "special" Manchester United showdown

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Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker has revealed that the club's traditionally fierce rivalry with Manchester United has always been a subject close to his heart ahead of tonight's clash, thanks to his younger brother.

Mertesacker held a deep affection for the Gunners long before moving to the Emirates from Werder Bremen in 2011, but his brother followed United as a youngster.

The German international has revealed that the fixture holds special memories in the Mertesacker household ahead of this evening's crucial Premier League showdown, which the Gunners need to win to reclaim top spot.

Arsene Wenger's side were without their defensive linchpin for the reverse fixture at Old Trafford earlier this season through illness, but Mertesacker is fully fit this evening and declared he is raring to make his mark on the fixture between two English superpowers tonight.

He is quoted by the club's official website as stating in the matchday programme for United's visit: " I always supported Arsenal [when I was growing up] and my brother Man United, because 10 or 15 years ago they were always the rivals for first place.

“Is my brother still a Man United fan? I think he stopped after I went to Arsenal! Maybe in his memories he knows he once supported Man United because he’s got a shirt from that era. But it’s a special game in my memory and it’s still the same now.

“You see these pictures [of previous games against United] at the training ground every day! So you realise and you know how important that was and still is.

“United have a strong squad and when everyone’s fit it’s a really good team. I will never write them off. It’s always a special game between Arsenal and Man United.”

Arsenal have largely looked a solid defensive unit this season with Mertesacker and Koscienly in central defensive, although that foundation was shattered at Liverpool last weekend.

Liverpool's 5-1 win over the title contenders was the first time Mertesacker and Koscienly have lost a match in which the pair have both completed 90 minutes, which should give the centre-back stars plenty of incentive to produce an instant response against United tonight.

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