Who: Manchester United vs Manchester City
When: Sunday, March 8th @ 12:30pm ET
Line: Manchester United +450 | Draw +350| Manchester City -182
Manchester United AGAIN failed to capitalize on Chelsea’s stumbles & couldn’t close in on that top-four spot this weekend. In the last 16 Premier League game-weeks, United have dropped points on all eight occasions Chelsea have as well.
If that doesn’t signify their inability to pounce on opportunities, nothing else will. Ironically they now face Manchester City, whose FFP violation could eventually grant them Champions League action next season upon finishing fifth. Currently, however, their rivals are booming with confidence after winning the Carabao Cup AGAIN!
Pep Guardiola’s men made a mockery of them in that competition in January. There’s no reason they can’t repeat it. But United can’t afford to drop points right now. With all their strengths, City also has major defensive weaknesses. As long as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side can capitalize on their vulnerabilities, we could be in for a real treat.
Manchester United Predicted XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Williams, Matic, McTominay, Fred, Fernandes, Martial
Daniel James missed United’s trip to Everton after having picked up a knock & could miss the derby. Paul Pogba’s still a week or two away from full fitness so don’t expect to see him either.
Manchester City Predicted XI
Ederson, Walker, Fernandinho, Otamendi, Mendy, Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Mahrez, Bernardo, Sterling
City will most likely go with the same design which gave them that big win at Old Trafford in January. Sergio Aguero picked up a late knock against in the Carabao Cup final, so he could miss out. Aymeric Laporte is sidelined after limping off at Madrid.
Manchester United vs Manchester City preview
The last time City visited United, they completely outplayed them. Solskjaer was tactically outwitted by Guardiola, but the unavailability of quality players due to injuries hampered their chances.
They also didn’t have a certain Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese is running the show like he’s been here for years. He’s like United’s own Kevin de Bruyne. But the real KDB is the league’s best player this season. He’s just unplayable when on song.
It’ll be a fascinating battle to see these two creative geniuses trying to out-create each other. Bruno is filling Pogba’s void with grace & doesn’t cower down on the big occasions. As long as he gets those splitting through-balls & long-rangers perfect and doesn’t get confined by City’s pressing, he can really torment the visitors.
City deconstructed United’s midfield in January. But now they have sturdier figures ready to bring a stronger fight. Ole experimented a new 4-man diamond formation that worked pretty well against Everton. Expect him to combine that with the three-man backline to frustrate the Citizens.
In this case, however, Anthony Martial will be key to United’s attacking ambitions. He’ll be relied upon to finish off the counter-attacks, drag defenders out of position and use his pace to good use. Bruno will try to find him, so Martial must put more effort into carving out shots at Ederson’s goal.
Nemanja Matic had a real topsy-turvy game at the Etihad in January but nullify City’s threat. He must prove his experience by protecting his backline & using his physicality to intimidate their midfielders. Fred & Scott McTominay must act like hounds against their opposition midfielders, press them hard, regaining possession & be more productive in moving the ball forward.
However to keep City’s blistering attack quiet, United need to be at their absolute best defensively. Harry Maguire’s putting in dominant performances as captain, but his reaction senses should be tested against the high-intense, fast-paced attacks of the Citizens.
Victor Lindelof must retain his Ice-cold composure to aid his partner & Luke Shaw also needs to continue his compelling work in a three-man defence. Aaron Wan-Bissaka had a blinder at the Etihad earlier this season where he pocketed Raheem Sterling. OGS will need more of that warrior defensive spirit from him plus better accuracy with his crosses.
City’s quality cannot be questioned. KDB can create things at a blink of an eye. Riyad Mahrez can torment both Shaw & young Brandon Williams at the same time. Sterling’s lethality in the final third is unquestioned. Gabriel Jesus & Bernardo Silva also amplify their unpredictability. If given enough opportunities, they could make this a mauling.
United cannot afford to lose concentration or discipline. They must fight for each other, work as a whole impenetrable unit to stop their rivals from playing their free-flowing style. The Red Devils need to treat this as a big final & pour their heart into the cause to complete a stunning league double over the defending champions.
As much as my heart says the lads will clinch this one, I just don’t see it happening especially as they play Derby County in the FA Cup 3 days before. Don’t think they’ll recover well enough to win but Old Trafford’s atmosphere & City’s own fatigue factor should ensure an entertaining 1-1 draw.