It is Derby Day and, as per, the narrative is dominating the day. Manchester United arrive into the game on the back of a league victory against a woeful Tottenham whereas City are looking to recover after a shock defeat to Crystal Palace.
With a European interlude and United salvaging a point against Atalanta, City will be the more confident as they brushed aside Club Brugge. They beat them 4-1 as they sit in pole position in Group A.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does have a good record against Pep Guardiola in the league as he has secured victory three times. The only issue is he does have a better record away from home against City and this derby will be at Old Trafford.
The last time the two sides met at Old Trafford they played out a drab 0-0, with both sides tentative and afraid to gamble. However, the game before that at Old Trafford was the last league game before the pandemic and it was a classic. Forgotten man Anthony Martial scored the opener before Scott McTominay took advantage of some sloppy distribution from Ederson to make it 2-0.
Manchester City’s form
Can you really call City struggling if they lost two games on the bounce? Before the Champions League win this was the case. A loss in the league against Palace and a penalty shootout defeat to West Ham in the League Cup but that does not take anything away from how superb they have been this season.
Prior to the league defeat, City had lost just one game and that was the opening day defeat to Spurs. Since then, they have just grown and grown back into the dominant force we know. They have kept it very tight at the back this season and only conceded six goals, which is the second-lowest in the league behind Chelsea; United have conceded nine more goals.
The form is strong and the squad is strong. It is the sign of Champions and although City sit in third place, they are certainly right in the title race. With the experience of winning the title last year, they are still considered favourites.
City will see a lot of the ball, it is how Guardiola plays but they have to be clinical with their attacks. In each of Solskjaer’s victories, the average possession over the four wins (including League Cup) was just 39%.
Manchester City team news
Who really knows what side Guardiola will throw out. His rotation policy keeps everybody guessing, so that means Solskjaer will have to be aware of each move he might make. However, they will certainly be without Aymeric Laporte who was sent off against Palace last week. It is expected John Stones will play alongside the superb Reuben Dias.
It is known that Guardiola will set up with a 4-3-3 formation but he has so many different options in attack that it is hard to nail down a certain player. However, he will look for pace against a rocked United defence lacking Varane and Lindelof. This will more than likely see a front three of Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, and Riyad Mahrez. However, you could easily play Gabriel Jesus or Phil Foden and still give United a massive threat.
The midfield battle will be important. It is somewhere United lacks real quality and they will have to work tirelessly against a side who like to keep the ball in this position. Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, and Rodri are all careful masters of the ball and do not panic when they have possession. But if United can frustrate them from playing the ball forward to the deadly three by playing as a unit and hitting City on the counter then this is where the game can be decided.