This weekend features two of the biggest fixtures of the Premier League season. There are two local derbies, with the first taking place at lunchtime on Saturday, as Manchester City make the short trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. The earlier meeting of the season was a comfortable victory for the current champions. This time, they come into the fixture lacking fluency, while United have been on a winning run. This is a great opportunity for the home side to beat their neighbours.
Despite two early Premier League defeats, Erik ten Hag has had a positive start as Manchester United manager. He looks to be the best fit for the role since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. Unlike some of his predecessors, he has stamped his authority on the dressing room and it looks like he has the respect of his players. It was a brave move to bench in-form Marcus Rashford when he overslept, but the attacker responded well and it served as a warning to the squad that no player is above the rules. There is a standard and every player needs to meet it. They are in the top four, remain in the Europa League and have reached the semi finals of the Carabao Cup. It is shaping up to be an excellent campaign.
It has been a slow restart for Manchester City. They have dropped points in the league and have now been knocked out of the Carabao Cup. Although they played a rotated team at Southampton, the manner of performance was troubling. Pep Guardiola tried to bring on his key players to salvage the tie, but they ended the match without a shot on target. As they trail Arsenal by seven points in the league, they can’t afford another slip up this weekend. They need to go to face a confident Manchester United team and take three points. With Arsenal facing Tottenham, it is a pivotal weekend in the title race. City could close the gap or it could grow further. The latter would be very damaging.
There have been 14 goals scored in the last two meetings of these two clubs.
Manchester City have won four of the last five Manchester derbies.
It can’t possibly be anyone else for the home side. Marcus Rashford is in a rich vein of form and it has been this case since the World Cup. He was excellent for England during his limited minutes and he has carried this on since his return to Old Trafford. In six matches across all competitions, the attacker has scored seven goals and produced two assists. He is the talisman of the United side once more following the acrimonious exit of Cristiano Ronaldo. There is a case to be made that some recent signings have damaged his development at Old Trafford, while injuries have also hampered him. There was a fear that he had peaked and he was on a downwards trajectory, similar to Dele Alli. Unlike his former international team-mate, there have never been doubts about Rashford’s attitude. He is now back to his best and he will be a key player this weekend. In the Manchester derby, Rashford has three goals and one assist in 13 Premier League Manchester derbies. His last strike came in 2019. If he performs as he has been, he should end that drought this weekend.
Kevin de Bruyne has been playing well since the restart, but he doesn’t have the goals or assists to show for it. The Belgian international is a player that normally steps up for the big occasion. He has an excellent record against other top six teams and it will be hoped that he can deliver a talismanic performance to help his side get back to winning ways. The battle between him and Casemiro will be great to watch. The Brazilian has been getting a lot of plaudits since his move to Old Trafford. It will be a tough battle for De Bruyne. This season, he has three goals and nine assists in the Premier League. Against Manchester United, he has three goals and three assists in league meetings. He will be the creative threat that United want to shut down on Saturday.
Diogo Dalot was taken off with a knock during the week. Aaron Wan-Bissaka could be recalled. Jadon Sancho and Donny van der Beek are both unavailable.
John Stones is a major doubt after missing the Carabao Cup game. Ruben Dias is a week or two away from a return.
This is one of the most difficult Manchester derbies to call in recent times. The home side are in better form and playing more confident football. City have the better team, but they need a marked improvement from their recent matches. There should be goals. An entertaining score draw could be the best bet.
Manchester United 2-2 Manchester City