The Manchester Derby will be the highlight of the Premier League weekend. In recent seasons, Manchester United have managed to secure several key victories over their local rivals. It will be hoped that Ralf Rangnick can continue this excellent record. Pep Guardiola will realise that his team are now in a title race and they can’t afford to drop any more points in the short term. For United, they focus will be on a top four finish, but it becomes harder and harder each week that passes, due to their inconsistent record. In the earlier meeting this season, City ran out 2-0 winners.
It has been a mixed few weeks for Manchester City. There have been some poor performances in the league with a draw to Southampton and a defeat to Tottenham. However, they remain the best team in the country for many and they are still league favourites. Liverpool are six points behind, but the Reds have a game in hand and are still to play City. That is shaping up to be one of the biggest matches in recent Premier League history. In the short term, they will be focused on winning every Premier League match until that fixture to ensure they don’t give up any more ground. The derby has caused them issues in the past, but they should have the quality to overpower United.
Many expected this to be a great season for Manchester United, after the signings of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the team has lacked fluency and the results have been inconsistent at best. They currently occupy 4th position, but Arsenal have three matches in hand and are just two points below United. Rangnick can’t afford another poor result this weekend. They need to go to City with the intention to win the game. A loss would put a huge dent into their Champions League aspirations.
Incredibly, Raheem Sterling has never scored against Manchester United in 23 attempts for City and Liverpool.
Despite the poor draws of late, Manchester United are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League matches.
It has been an excellent season for Joao Cancelo, as he has emerged as one of the best full-backs in Europe. He is capable of producing world class performances on either flank, which makes him a great player for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. At times, he is their most threatening player and in recent weeks, he has been taking a lot more shots than he previously had. In addition to his increased shot volume, Cancelo is capable of producing moments of quality to create clear cut opportunities. During the first derby, he was the man of the match, getting one assist and producing the cross that forced the own goal. Manchester United struggled to deal with him. On that day, he had four shots, made one key pass and completed four tackles. He was used on the left flank and could be used in the same way on Sunday.
The Portuguese international has faced criticism at times this season, but he is now influencing matches in the same way he did in previous seasons. It has been a change of role for Fernandes, as Cristiano Ronaldo has taken a prominent role in the attack. Now, Fernandes is managing to regularly impact matches in the final third, offering creativity and a direct goal threat. His runs from deep have proven to be a dangerous weapon for Rangnick, as he is getting plenty of clear cut chances. Despite his perceived poor season, the midfielder has still managed to contribute nine goals and six assists, underlining his consistency in the final third. Across all competitions, he has scored four and assisted five in his last ten matches. Fernandes is the in-form player in the United attack and he will want to remind people of his quality in a big game. This could be the platform for him to thrive on Sunday.
Ruben Dias has been ruled out for the next few weeks with a hamstring injury. This will give a chance to John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, who could develop into a very good partnership for City. Nathan Ake and Cole Palmer remain on the sidelines.
Manchester United could receive a double boost, as Scott McTominay and Edinson Cavani are expected to return to the match day squad. There has been talk on social media that it could be the right time to drop Cristiano Ronaldo, but that would be a huge call. It remains to be seen if Rangnick has the appetite for it.
This is an interesting fixture. It is always expected that Manchester City will win, as they are the superior side. However, United have an ability to deliver huge performances in these matches. Their pace on the counter attack has caused City a lot of problems in recent years. If Rangnick drops Ronaldo and adds more pace to the forward line, they might be able to shock their rivals once again. However, the more likely result is a home win.
Manchester City 2-0 Manchester United