It has been a mixed week for both of these sides. Manchester United delivered an excellent performance last weekend to beat Tottenham, as they got their top four hopes back on track. They followed that up with a poor performance at Atalanta during the week, underlining the inconsistency of the team under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Meanwhile, Manchester City limped to a disappointing home defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend, which dented their title hopes. This weekend offers a huge opportunity for both sides. United need a win to show they are capable of competing with the best. City can’t afford to drop points in successive matches. It is shaping up to be a classic.
Manchester United have had a turbulent few weeks. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains in situ, but he needs to deliver a much better level of performance on a consistent basis. The issue during his tenure has been the inconsistency and that has been the case this campaign, despite significant investment during the summer. The shadow of Antonio Conte has been removed, as the Italian has taken the Tottenham job. However, that won’t be the end of the speculation about the Norwegian’s job. If a higher level of consistency isn’t found in the coming weeks, there will be plenty of coaches willing to step into his position.
Pep Guardiola will know that there is little margin for error following the defeat to Crystal Palace. They are five points below Chelsea, but City usually grow stronger as the season progresses. This is an excellent opportunity for the team to record a victory over a rival, giving them momentum to take into the winter period. Their record against Manchester United has been poor in recent seasons, as they have suffered numerous defeats to Solskjaer’s side. They will be favourites to win, but it won’t be an easy game for them.
Manchester United are currently on an unbeaten run of four Premier League matches against Manchester City. In their last four league meetings, they have won three and drawn once.
Manchester City have won seven matches in the Premier League at Old Trafford. No team has won eight times at the home of Manchester United.
Despite the team’s struggles, Cristiano Ronaldo have continued to score on a regular basis, proving why he is one of the greatest goal-scorers in the history of the sport. He will have been disappointed with how the last prestige fixture went against Liverpool. The Reds ran out comfortable winners in an embarrassing meeting for United. The Portuguese international holds himself and his team-mates to a high standard. This is an opportunity for Ronaldo to play a starring role in a Manchester derby. During the summer, he came close to signing for Manchester City. At least, that was the speculation at the time, but United hijacked the deal. This is a chance for him to show that he made the correct decision and that United can still compete against the very best. The 36-year-old has contributed nine goals in 11 matches since his return to Old Trafford. He is averaging a goal every 99.6 minutes. It will be tough for United this weekend. There will be fears that the match could go a similar way to their previous home match against Liverpool. If they are to get anything from the game, they will need to be well organised and take the chances that come their way. Ronaldo will be the man they look to when the chances arrive. If he performs, they could record another victory over their local rivals.
This is a great opportunity for Phil Foden to play a match-winning role on derby day. He has been the player that Guardiola has favoured in the false nine role and he is thriving in the attacking half. For a long time, he was on the sidelines and was only given limited minutes on the pitch. It now looks like he is one of the first names on the team sheet. Foden deserves it and he could take a huge step forward over the coming months. The 21-year-old carries a dual threat, as he can score regularly and create chances for his team-mates. This season, he has contributed five goals and four assists across all competitions. It is foolish to try to second guess Guardiola, but Foden has been a regular starter since his return from injury. It would be a surprise to see him benched this weekend. Manchester United struggle against direct opposition attackers. Their defence won’t enjoy trying to contain the movement and dribbling of Foden. If City manage to get him on the ball in the final third, he could have a huge part to play in helping City put an end to their poor run of form against Manchester United.
Paul Pogba is still serving his suspension, following his red card against Liverpool. Raphael Varane had returned to the starting eleven, but he limped off during the Champions League draw against Atalanta. The centre-back won’t be back until December. Victor Lindelof is a doubt with a knock, which leaves United with defensive worries ahead of the weekend.
Aymeric Laporte is suspended for the weekend, which means that John Stones will be brought back into the starting eleven in the league. Kyle Walker has a knock and he faces a battle to prove his fitness. Ferran Torres is a long term injury absentee.
It is going to be a fascinating fixture, that will tell us whether the Manchester United squad back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The performance against Liverpool was disastrous. A similar display this weekend could spell the end of the manager heading into the international break. The defensive absentees probably increases the likelihood of an away win. Manchester City are not unbeatable, like many believed them to be last season. However, they are a much more accomplished team than their local rivals. Guardiola’s men should take the three points.
Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City