"Keane and Vieira are two significant personalities but they weren't around in 1990, were they?
"We've got the players to beat Arsenal, no question about that. And I won't need to worry about the tiredness after Saturday's game against Bolton.
"My players will all be ready for the Arsenal game and will all want to play. I keep making the point we have to make sure we are the closest team to Chelsea in case they slip up.
"Our consistency has been good and winning against Arsenal is going to be important in that quest. We need to keep the consistency going.
"The team is playing well, they are showing great determination, great team spirit and they're enjoying themselves.
"I made some changes against Bolton to freshen the team up but it will be a different team again against Arsenal.
"Everyone should be fit and available and I'm hoping Paul Scholes, Alan Smith and Wes Brown will all be back.
"There is a spark between these clubs which has been lit a lot of times.
"But, in the main, our behaviour has been perfect. In matters such as these, you need complete discipline.
"Everyone keeps saying Arsenal are in transition, I keep saying the same thing about Manchester United but it doesn't get the same attention," he complained to the club's television station, MUTV, one of the few media outlets whose relationship with the man has not sunk to permafrost levels.
Arsenal have sold Vieira for a significant profit, they have had to cut back financially to prepare for the move to Ashburton Grove and are still competing in the Champions League. United have none of these excuses to offer. If only for their own self-respect, they need a victory.
"Cristiano has a really good record against Arsenal.
"He always seems to do well against them and when he is on his game he is a really difficult opponent to stop. He needs to be scoring goals and setting them up on a regular basis, so hopefully the two he got against Bolton Wanderers (on Saturday) will give him that bit more confidence.
"We want to try to keep this unbeaten run going," said the England international.
"We don't want to lose games because have seen the effect and criticism defeats can bring.
"Over the last month we have improved quite a lot and everyone seems to be firing. We need to make sure that continues. Going to Highbury is always a difficult game.
"It is one of those massive matches that we all enjoy and I am sure Arsenal's players do as well. But we are in good form and hopefully we can get the win."
"I feel it's down to how much we believe we'll come back, and in my opinion the team is doing well and will come back. Against United we have a good opportunity to do it. It's in our hands. We don't have any margin for errors, but neither have Liverpool or United.
"It's down to us. This team can make a quick step forward and we can make you all wrong. We have until May. We have 19 games in front of us and I'm a great believer that there's a lot, lot more to come from my team.
"I don't think we will struggle to fill Ashburton Grove because the following of the club is very big. There are 22,000 season ticket holders and 20,000 on the waiting list.
"It's all down to our performances. If the quality of the team is there, we will fill the new stadium. I incited the club to build the stadium because I felt this club had huge potential. Every time we play at home, compared to Manchester United, we lose 30,000 people. By the time Ashburton is paid for I think we will be one of the three or four biggest clubs in the world financially.
"Don't rule us out of the Champions' League too quickly.
"I want to make 2006 a great year for the football club and the team is very determined to achieve that. People want to rule us out but it is up to us to prove them wrong in May. There is big potential in the side and it will come out in 2006.
"We have 33 points after 19 games and multiplied by two gives us 66 points but we want to do much better. We haven't got a lot of margin for error but nor do Liverpool or Manchester United. People are quick to draw conclusions and if we had a squad with an average age of 33 I would say we are on the way down, but we have the youngest team of the big four."
"Sometimes it is hard to believe we have lost ground on Chelsea, given the run we have had.
"They are not playing that well but they are managing to dig out results, which is the sign of a good team.
"It can be demoralising when they keep winning, but we have to keep the faith.
"We are playing some good stuff and have a lot of confidence at the moment.
"If we can win the race for second place, should Chelsea slip up, at least we will be there to take advantage.
"These games are always a bit special, and the rivalry has definitely built up over the last few years," he said.
"But as players we must try not to get involved in personal feuds.
"We just have to look at the job in hand, which is to get three points."
Fletcher does recognise, however, that it may not take much to light the touchpaper again.
"The two teams have been battling at the top of the league for so long there is bound to be some kind of rivalry."
"Wayne’s weak point is his brain. Pressure gets to him. Maybe we can work on that the next time we play United, so he’ll get sent off."
"It will be a new thing having no Vieira or Keane involved in this game. Maybe it will be a little bit more calmer!
"But they are special games. There is some history in those games but the reason you are in football is to play in the big games and that is what counts.
"I hope we can all stand up and be counted tomorrow. I do not think about the past games. It is a new season and a new battle, if you want to say that, and for us it is just important to take the three points and close the gap.
"We have had a good run at home and, if we get a bit of luck, maybe we can get a good start to the game and play really well. That will be the objective."
Traditionally, the visit of Manchester United to Highbury offers a barometer on the state on the title race, but tonight the stakes are different.
Arsenal leave their home of 93 years for the nearby Emirates Stadium and Ashburton Grove in the summer and, given the intensity between these teams at Old Trafford and in north London, this match - their last at Highbury unless the teams meet in the FA Cup - still promises much, even if the title realistically is out of reach of both.
Chelsea extended their advantage yesterday to 14 points ahead of United and 25 points clear of Arsenal, who go into the new year in sixth place with 33 points. This is Arsenal's lowest points start to a year since the 1997-98 season when they were sixth at the end of 1997 - but finished as champions.
Indeed Arsenal are closer to the relegation zone in terms of points difference than they are the Premiership leaders and, though the match lacks the spark of a Patrick Vieira versus Roy Keane confrontation, the rivalry has not been dissipated by Chelsea's domination.
ARSENAL (probable; 4-4-2): J Lehmann — Lauren, K Touré, S Campbell, P Cygan — A Hleb, Gilberto Silva, F Fàbregas, J A Reyes — T Henry, D Bergkamp.
MANCHESTER UNITED (possible; 4-4-2): E van der Sar — G Neville, R Ferdinand, M Silvestre, J O’Shea — C Ronaldo, D Fletcher, P Scholes, R Giggs — R van Nistelrooy, W Rooney.
Referee: G Poll.
'Sir Alex Ferguson is hopeful of having Paul Scholes (migraine), Alan Smith (chest infection) and Wes Brown (groin) available for the trip to Premiership rivals Arsenal.
The trio missed United's New Year's Eve win over Bolton, although only Scholes can be certain of retaining his place if fit.
Ruud van Nistelrooy should return in place of Louis Saha, but after one of his side's best performances of the season, Ferguson may prefer to keep changes to a minimum.
Freddie Ljungberg and Robin van Persie are both ruled out of Arsenal’s side ahead of the game.
Ljungberg has a virus, while van Persie sustained another kick at Aston Villa on the same knee injury that had previously sidelined him.
Gilberto Silva is nevertheless hoping to return from a groin injury that sidelined him at Villa Park, while Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy are long-term absentees.'