A few weeks ago, the second Manchester derby of the Premier League season would have been seen as a huge match for the title race. However, Manchester United have fallen off the pace and their focus will be on consolidating their position in the top four. They are currently 14 points behind Manchester City and the run-in is likely to be a procession for Pep Guardiola’s side. That said, this fixture is important for the respective fan bases and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will know that his team need to show a lot more than they have done in their last two fixtures.
Manchester City are now firmly into the second stage of Pep Guardiola’s time as manager. The Spaniard has managed to rebuild the team following the exits of Vincent Kompany and David Silva. Meanwhile, Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero are now playing minor roles, with neither being part of City’s strongest eleven. Supporters may have feared that the Catalan would leave the club due to the slump in 2019/20, but he has stayed at the club and the last few months would have reignited the hunger deep within. A third league title looks to be a formality and they are well placed to compete for all four trophies. Few would back against them in their current form. A win over Manchester United isn’t needed for their league position, but their fans will be desperate for it.
It has been a disappointing few weeks for Manchester United. There was belief that they could push on and challenge Manchester City. However, their local rivals are an incredible machine under Pep Guardiola. It is difficult to score against them, let alone take points. With Manchester United, they have been dropping points regularly since the turn of the year and opposition teams always have belief that they beat Solskjaer’s men. Since they lost to Sheffield United, they haven’t lost, but they have won just twice in seven Premier League
Following his performances in the week, Riyad Mahrez has contributed 15 goals and 15 assists for Manchester City in 38 Premier League starts at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester United have now drawn 0-0 in six Premier League matches this season. This is their joint-high of any Premier League campaign. The previous Manchester derby ended goalless.
Considering the incredible form of Manchester City, it has been a quiet season for Kevin de Bruyne. He was the undoubted star of the team last season, but injuries and fatigue have prevented him from reaching the same heights in the current campaign. That will make him determined to finish the season strongly and play his part in what could be a record breaking season for the club. Despite some talking about it being a quiet season for the Belgian, he has contributed three goals and 11 assists in the Premier League. He is averaging a goal involvement every 118.6 minutes. The 29-year-old is level with Harry Kane in the assists chart and he will be hoping that he can push on to finish top of this for a second successive season. Manchester United set up to frustrate in big matches, as shown by their amount of goalless draws. It could be that it is a tight game on Sunday and De Bruyne has the quality to produce the match-winning moment. This may be a piece of quality to get an assist or a strike from range.
It seems foolish to choose any other Manchester United player. Bruno Fernandes is the undoubted star player for Manchester United. It has been noticeable that he has been quiet in the last two matches and United have struggled to create clear cut chances in the final third. The Portuguese midfielder will be looking to have a big part to play in the game and support the argument that he is the best player in the league. This is an opportunity for him to show his quality against the best team in the league and to get his team’s form back on track. Manchester City are clearly the best defensive team in the league, which will make it difficult for Manchester United to get many chances. They will rely on Fernandes to cause the damage and add to his 15 goals and 10 assists. The very best players perform well in matches like this and based on his United career, Fernandes will have a big part to play on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola has confirmed that he has a fully fit squad to choose from this weekend, with Nathan Ake back in contention. It is difficult to predict his line-ups and with Southampton to come in the week, he may rotate his squad. Sergio Aguero will be hoping to feature in what could be his final Manchester derby.
Donny van der Beek, Anthony Martial and Victor Lindelof could all be back to feature this weekend. Paul Pogba remains a week or two away from a return to action. David de Gea is missing for personal reasons, which means Dean Henderson will start.
This is going to be another tight match, as Manchester United don’t know how to approach a game like this in any other way. However, Manchester City are in the best form they have been in under Pep Guardiola and they will have too much for their local rivals. It won’t be a thrashing, but it should be a home win.
Manchester City 2-0 Manchester United