The 175th Manchester derby is upon us and it could just be the most important fixture these two sides have had in the Premier League since December 2012.
Manchester United have been phenomenal at home. There’s been question marks early on as to whether the Portuguese could ever really imprint his style on Man United but with a 40 game unbeaten streak at home that stretches back to September 2016 (a club record), Mourinho has quite evidently answered it in a way only he could. United are not only unbeaten at home this season – but they are doing it emphatically this season conceding only once at Old Trafford in 2017/18.
But Sunday will be a different kettle of fish altogether as the Red Devils come up against a side who not only enjoy an eight-point advantage but also know that 3 points at Old Trafford would provide them the ultimate boost towards winning the league title for the first time in four years.
Manchester City have been the best side in the country by some distance – and it is showing in the league table. The Blues have racked up the wins this season – a remarkable 13 game winning run in the Premier League and could claim an all-time Premier League record to themselves, should they extend that string of results, on Sunday. Pep Guardiola has transformed this side from an inconsistent yet good-to-watch attacking side, to a match-winning machine who would have a go right til the very end to get the result. Having won the last three games by a late goal, City have demonstrated the other side of them – that separates good from the great.
Despite losing their most recent Champions League encounter to Shakthar Donetsk, the blues are well equipped to handle the threat of their cross-town rivals and it will be fascinating to see if Guardiola could pull out another big result out of the hat on Sunday.
Although Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Phil Jones and Nemanja Matic are available for United, midfielder Marouane Fellaini will be assessed ahead of the game. Midfielder Paul Pogba starts a three-match ban on Sunday after he was sent off in last weekend’s win at Arsenal, joining captain Michael Carrick and defender Eric Bailly on the sidelines.
Manchester City playmaker David Silva is fit for the Old Trafford trip after overcoming a knock but captain Vincent Kompany is doubtful with an unspecified problem. Makeshift left-back Fabian Delph has recovered from a sickness bug but defenders John Stones (hamstring) and Benjamin Mendy (knee) are still out.
- After losing four Premier League games in a row against Manchester City, Manchester United have lost just one of their last five derbies against them (W2 D2 L1).
- Manchester City have now won 13 successive league matches – a joint-record within a single top-flight season, alongside Chelsea (2016-17), Arsenal (2001-02), Preston and Sunderland (both 1891-92).
- Jose Mourinho’s side are on the longest current unbeaten home run in the Premier League (24 games – W14 D10 L0), with their last such defeat at Old Trafford coming against Manchester City in September 2016 (1-2).
Nemanja Matic – Manchester United
It’s a no-brainer that Paul Pogba’s absence will massively affect United’s chances and even for that matter, the style of play that they could go with on Sunday. However, the 29-year old Serb has brought a calmness and stability to Manchester United which has played a significant role in the increased amount of control that they have had at Old Trafford contributing to a strong run of results at home.
His role will be the most key for the home side, if they were to take the game to the opposition in terms of not just stopping the likes of De Bruyne and Silva dictating the tempo from midfield, but also initiating attacking moves himself from deep with his rather underrated passing range.
Raheem Sterling – Manchester City
One of Guardiola’s accomplishments as a coach rather than a manager of Manchester City, is how much of a positive influence he has had on the often vilified Raheem Sterling. The 23-year old is in the form of his life – scoring and assisting a combined 11 goals in 10 starts for the Blues. The fans adore him at the Etihad and it’s clear that the manager has worked on improving Sterling’s finishing and decision making in the final third, something the 23-year old England International needed improving on since his time at Liverpool. It has reaped rewards with the explosive forward scoring big late winners last week that has kept the 8-point cushion over Man United at the top of the table intact.
His renewed sense of movement and dribbling abilities will be crucial to exploiting Manchester United’s weaknesses at the back as will his exceptional link-up play with the likes of De Bruyne, Silva and Aguero.
One of the records is going to have to end on Sunday and I reckon it will be City’s.
Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City