On March 25th, Manchester City travel to Old Trafford to take on local rivals Manchester United. The latest installment of the Manchester derby will be a bit of a strange one. It is strange because, for the first time in the Premier League era, the two will meet with Manchester United well and truly out of the title race and Manchester City in the thick of it. Manchester City will try to continue their winning ways and continue to claw back points with their games in hand on Chelsea. Manchester United will try to build off of their win away to West Ham and climb into the Europa League spots. While this game may not have title implications for both teams, it is still a huge game.
Both teams will be missing a star striker for the match.
Manchester City will be without Sergio Aguero along with Matija Nastasic, Micah Richards. Striker Edin Dzeko will have a late fitness test as he continues to recover from an illness.
Manchester United will be without star striker Robin Van Persie along with Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Rio Ferdnand. United may also be without Jonny Evans and Antonio Valencia who will both have late fitness tests.
Manchester City have won three out of the last four Manchester derbies, but Manchester United lead the all time record winning 69, drawing 50 and losing only 46. Wayne Rooney is the top scorer in the fixture with 11 goals. Manchester City have won more games away from the Etihad (7) than Manchester United have won at Old Trafford this season. A goal has been scored in the past nine games between the two teams, and at least three goals have been scored six out of the last seven meetings.
When Manchester City play their best football David Silva is usually at the centre of it all. Silva has been absolutely sensational this season racking up eight assists and five goals. The Spaniard has created a chance every 22 minutes that is better than anyone else in the league (among players who have played at least 900 minutes). Silva is Manchester City’s creative heartbeat and is arguably the most important player in the Manchester City team. He allows City to play the beautiful flowing football they have shown they can play at times this season. And, if David Silva performs well, Manchester United will be hard pressed to stop Manchester City’s lethal attack.
Manchester United’s big move in the January transfer window was Juan Mata and they will need him to perform if they are to get something out of this game. With Robin Van Persie out through injury, Mata was out in his natural number 10 role, as opposed to out wide, where he has been playing, and he thrived in it. He created one clear cut chance and five chances in total against the Hammers in a 2-0 United victory. Out of favor Shinji Kagawa and Mata started together for the first time this season and together they created nine chances. Those nine chances were 75% of the chances United created and together they created 80% of United’s chances from open play. If United can get a performance from Mata like the one he put in against West Ham, then United certainly have a chance to take City down.
Both teams will be desperate for wins in what is sure to be a heated Manchester derby. Manchester United would love to try to play spoiler to their local rivals in their pursuit of the Premier League title. City need to win their games in hand on Chelsea to get back to the summit and three points against Manchester United would be huge for them. In the end, I see Manchester City winning this one. Old Trafford has not been the fortress is was in previous seasons and Manchester City are just the better team.