Sir Alex Ferguson believes Sunday will be the start of one of the most important spells of Manchester United's season, with the clash offering the long awaited meeting of arguably the top two strikers in the league, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

Ferguson refused to underestimate his opponents in preparation for the match, despite the Red Devils having defeated their title rivals 8-2 when they last met at the end of August.

And while United are desperately fighting for top spot in the Premier League table, and Arsenal are aiming for a Champions League position at the very least, Ferguson believes the match will be a cracker either way.

"Sunday's game is the start of a hectic spell for us," he told the official Manchester United website.

"I hope we come through the programme well because it could decide a lot of the season.

"It's always a hard game with Arsenal and it should be a good one. They recovered well from the 8-2, had a really good spell and qualified for the next stage of the Champions League.

"They've had to contend with some injuries to defenders, particularly their two regular full-backs - [Bacary] Sagna and [Kieran] Gibbs have both been injured for quite a while now and they've had to contend with that which isn't easy. I think they've equipped themselves well.

"Revenge? It has never been part of my career to think about it. It just doesn't apply itself to me but maybe others do. Everyone's different in that way.

"I certainly don't think the game will be as open as Old Trafford earlier in the season. It will be a difficult game. They've only lost six goals at home this season so we're well aware it will be a hard game."

The meeting will be a nail biter for both Arsenal and United fans, and it also provides the perfect opportunity for Rooney to match up against the in form Arsenal talisman.

Rooney has featured 19 times for Untied and van Persie 21 for Arsenal, and the hitmen have remarkably similar stats, even though van Persie has scored five more times in the league this season.

Castrol EDGE Performance data shows that although van Persie has played an additional 300 minutes compared to Rooney, the Dutchman only holds an accuracy percentage of 2 points more than the United frontman.

Rooney also appears to be more creative and indeed lethal further away from the box, with the 26-year-old creating almost double (946) the passes of his rival (575). His pass completion rate is higher, both across the pitch and in the final third, and he has scored 62.5% of his goals outside the box, compared to van Persie finding the net from outside the area just 5.5% of the time.

With both converting their shots into goals around one in every five, the stage is set for the two talisman to battle it out with some of the league's best defenders on their tales.

Robin van Persie vs Wayne Rooney in Premier League 2011-12

Robin van Persie v Wayne Rooney in the Premier League