Manchester United vs Manchester City Preview

English Premier League | Sunday 8 March | Old Trafford | 18:30

The “noisy neighbours”, Manchester City, travel four miles from the Etihad stadium to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon to square off against Manchester United in the 182nd Manchester Derby. The Red Devils will be desperate to complete a league double over City after beating the Citizens 2-1 in the reverse fixture earlier this season thanks to goals from Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.

It is the fourth clash between these sides for this season after both teams played a two-legged semi-final tie of the Carabao Cup which saw City advance with an aggregate score of 3-2 and go on to be crowned champions of the league cup for the third straight year, against Aston Villa last week Sunday.

The blue side of Manchester has dominated the city over the past couple of years, but doing the double over Pep Guardiola’s men would do United fans the world of good as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to paint the town red again.

To Win
Manchester United 9/2
Draw 34/10
Manchester City 11/20

Manchester United

United fans are buzzing about Bruno Fernandes. The former Sporting Lisbon captain has come and changed their fortunes by contributing two goals and two assists in the league. The Red Devils had been missing Paul Pogba due to injury, but since the arrival of Bruno, some fans are saying Pogba who? Rightly so, he runs the game with ease and looks two or three levels above every player at United.

The Red Devils will be heading in the right direction with both Pogba and Bruno in the heart of the team. Pogba has been seen at Carrington continuing his rehabilitation and Solskjaer will be hopeful he can have the world cup winner back to full fitness for the business end of the campaign. Pogba is touch and go but Marcus Rashford will definitely miss this match.

Anthony Martial, Odion Ighalo and Mason Greenwood are the strikers available and are expected to lead the line. Daniel James is a disciplined and energetic player that presses defenders in their own half and tracks back when United don’t have possession of the ball. This will be important against City who play prominently possession-based football.

Last time out, Solsjkaer opted for a diamond in midfield against Everton with playing Nemanja Matic in the deep-lying midfield role flanked by box-to-box midfielders Fred and the returning Scott McTominay, and Fernandes in the no. 10 role. Just when Harry Maguire and his defensive unit start to string a few clean sheets together, David De Gea made a terrible blunder at Goodison Park last week Sunday that cost two points. De Gea took too much time with the ball at his feet and when he decided to kick it in, he was closed down by in-form striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin which resulted in the Spaniard having to pick the ball out of his own net and hold his hand up to apologise to his teammates. The Spanish number one will want to redeem himself and the careless mistake by emulating his performance in the last time he played City – keeping a clean sheet with crucial saves and constantly finding the attackers with well-distributed balls from the back.

Manchester City

Manchester City marched on last weekend in a game that was more of a contest than first anticipated, against Aston Villa at Wembley to lift their seventh trophy out of eight that are available to English teams. Guardiola tinkered with his team’s tactics and played Phil Foden in a wider role than he is used to and he excelled. Go back a few days earlier than that where he similarly played Gabriel Jesus in a wide role and he put in a hardworking shift and also excelled above expectation.

Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane are the only players unavailable due to injury for City. Sane’s absence has been filled by Algerian Riyad Mahrez but Laporte is the lynchpin that cannot seem to be replaced. Guardiola has found it difficult without the Frenchman who brings calm and composure that allows his team to play out from the back.

John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi are not capable of playing at the same level as Laporte, so midfielder Fernandinho has been drafted in that position for this season. These defenders have you feeling that as a striker you always have a sniff and that they are bound to make mistakes. This is the biggest factor to City failing to compete with Liverpool this season and find themselves 20 odd points behind the log-leaders. However, they have netted a league-high 68 goals that has helped them outscore teams.

City have some of the best midfielders in the world who dictate the flow of the match much like Barcelona’s midfield. As an opposition player, you have to get on their toes as quick as possible and not allow them too much time on the ball. If not, this is when they start running havoc and making top class teams look silly.

Sergio Aguero will be hoping to score against United for the 10th time in his career but the player to watch and the favourite contender for Man of the Match will be De Bruyne. Jesus has featured more often in recent games and will be called upon to get the job done if needed. The Brazilian striker has scored important match winning goals against Leicester City and Real Madrid in recent games. Unless these teams draw each other again in the FA Cup it will also be David Silva’s last Manchester Derby.

Probable line-ups:

Manchester United: 4-3-1-2
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Bailly, Shaw; Matic, Fred, McTominay; Fernandes; Martial, James.

Manchester City: 4-3-3
Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Stones, Mendy; Rodri, David Silva, De Bruyne; Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Mahrez.

Prediction: Manchester City Win & Both Teams to Score (37/20)
United are playing much better compared to a month ago. Key players are returning to fitness after bouts of injury but this Manchester City team are near unstoppable. Expect United to fight hard and win more of the midfield battles compared to previous meetings but the visitors have too much class in their ranks. At 11/20, the away win offers very little value but should be considered a banker. Utilise the Matchbet and Both Teams to Score market and go with Manchester City to Win & Both Teams to Score at 37/20.

Bryan Naicker

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