Having been involved in 3 consecutive goalless draws, Manchester United are playing their most boring soccer of the season. The thing is, their horrible dip in form couldn’t have come at a worse period. As they remain tied to the second spot in the Premier League by a thread, the Red Devils now face the best team in England.
Man City have won their last 21 consecutive games & don’t look like they want to stop anytime soon. Pep Guardiola’s side are playing some of their best soccer in years and that is not good news for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men. But as they’re playing in a derby & unbeaten in 21 away league games themselves, OGS hopes his side reignite their inner flames & burn down City’s incredible record at their own home.
Manchester City Likely XI
Ederson, Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Foden, Sterling, Jesus
Nathan Ake remains the only injury absentee for the Citizens.
Manchester United Likely XI
Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Fred, McTominay, Bruno, James, Rashford, Cavani
Paul Pogba is unlikely to be back for the derby. Anthony Martial & Donny van de Beek are also a doubt after missing the Crystal Palace game. Juan Mata & David de Gea are also out of this one.
Manchester City vs Manchester United Preview
Right now it looks like United can’t score a goal to save their lives. That performance in the 0-0 draw against Palace was the worst possible way to play before a derby. They go into the Man City clash extremely low on confidence and their away record in severe threat of being snapped.
Solskjaer’s record against big sides this season has been pretty poor. Even though he hasn’t lost many, drawing so many brings a bad reputation. He’ll look to change that record on Sunday, but for that, he must motivate his players to take more risks & ditch the ‘safety first’ attitude which has been causing all the goalless draws.
United will be happy to allow their rivals to dominate possession, but it’s what they do when they get the ball that matters. Last week, they did a good job neutralizing Chelsea’s threat, but were extremely poor in counter-attacks. That can’t happen against City if they aspire to get anything out of the result.
Ole must motivate his men to take the fight to City & be brave in counter-attacks. For that to succeed, Marcus Rashford must regain his peak big-game form. The Englishman looks visibly fatigued, but must reinvigorate his spirit if United are to trouble City’s impeccable defence. The Englishman must use his electric pace to carry the ball forward & more important improve his finishing in the final third.
Dan James will be another important gear for United’s counter-attacking engine. While his defensive work is admirable, the Welsh winger must improve his own decision making in & around the penalty area to really trouble the hosts.
Bruno Fernandes’ form has also dipped but he has a point to prove against City. With everyone mocking his poor record against top-6 opponents, this is the perfect opportunity for him to silence his doubters. For that, Bruno must be clever with his work in the final third, which involves making the perfect passes in counter-attacks and ensuring his shots actually meet the target.
Edinson Cavani also has a point to prove & will look to trouble City’s impeccable duo of Ruben Dias–John Stones with his clever movement & link-up play in the final third. Scott McTominay also plays a vital part in moving the ball forward, as he must improve his passing range & also be defensively primed to stop City’s midfielders.
Fred should be the one looking to break down City’s attacks with his clutch interceptions & disrupt their play with his energetic style. But it’s United’s backline that must be at their very best to survive the onslaught. City will be ruthless going forward & have all the momentum in the world on their side.
Kevin de Bruyne can create chances out of nothing with his incredible vision & passing range. IIkay Gundogan’s the ace-in-the-hole in the City side, with his clever movement & unpredictable presence inside the box making him a huge goalscoring threat. Phil Foden’s operating with a real swagger right now & can run any defender ragged with his vibrant attacking style, while Raheem Sterling is also buzzing like a bee.
Harry Maguire & Victor Lindelof must maintain utmost concentration to clear away all the danger as well as ensuring the Citizens don’t find space around the box. Luke Shaw is in prime shape right now, so he’ll be expected to make an impact with his crosses & set-pieces as well as keep City’s right wing quiet.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka always seems to love playing against Sterling, but he really needs to tap into Superman mode to keep the in-form Englishman quiet. This is also a huge game for Dean Henderson, who can really make a claim for the No.1 spot if he saves whatever City throw at him & salvage a result for his side.
United can’t go into their cautious shell hoping for a draw against City. If they do so, the Citizens have enough quality to grind out a win. The Red Devils need to stop thinking about unbeaten away record and be braver with going toe-to-toe with their rivals. They must diversify their attacks, pour more bodies forward & most important capitalize on their counter-attacking opportunities to stop the Man City juggernaut, at least for now.
I expect this to be like the Carabao Cup Manchester Derby from earlier this season. City dominates the game, United waste chances and City score goals from unexpected situations. I’m going for a 2-1 win for the Citizens & United’s unbeaten away run to end.