Manchester United and Manchester City will renew their fabled rivalry at Old Trafford on Wednesday, with some huge stakes at play.
The games typically continue to come thick and fast in the penultimate month of the club season. On Wednesday, a big ticket fixture will be on show, as Manchester United play hosts to Manchester City at Old Trafford in what will be the 160th Manchester derby in a league setting.
For a long time, it had looked like Manchester United could do absolutely nothing wrong under the tutelage of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Red Devils had not been beaten for nearly three months in the Premier League, and a dramatic comeback win over PSG in the UEFA Champions League had salvaged some hopes for a season that seemed to be heading nowhere.
But, the turnaround against PSG has proven to be a bad omen for Manchester United, who have since lost six of the eight games they have played, with the latest being their 4-0 capitulation suffered at the hands of Everton this past weekend.
For Manchester City, the dream of an unprecedented quadruple was ended last week, as Tottenham Hotspur trumped them on away goals following a controversial, but highly pulsating second leg. The domestic treble, however, is very much a possibility, although a couple of big obstacles remain in front of Pep Guardiola’s men.
While Watford will pose quite a challenge in the FA Cup final, Manchester United are the final sizable hurdle in front of Manchester City in the Premier League. But, the defending Premier League champions warmed up for the derby with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Tottenham last weekend.
The reverse fixture, played at the Etihad back in November last year, had ended in a comfortable 3-1 win for Manchester City, with Anthony Martial scoring a consolation goal for Manchester United. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the final Manchester derby of the season.
Team News & Tactics
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has seen his roster issues ease up ahead of the derby, with Luke Shaw now available after serving his two-match ban for accumulating 10 yellow cards in the Premier League. The Englishman should return to the side straightaway, starting as the Manchester United left-back.
Apart from Shaw, there are no major concerns hampering Solskjaer’s preparations, with the Manchester United manager’s chief issue being his squad’s attitude and fitness. The likes of Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia and Eric Bailly are battling to be fit in time to make themselves available, while Phil Jones is a doubt as well after picking up a knock against Everton.
Jones is unlikely to start, with Victor Lindelof set to return at the heart of the Manchester United defence after the experiment of starting him as a right-back failed. Chris Smalling will be Lindelof’s partner, but the right-back slot will be one that presents a selection dilemma, and for the wrong reasons.
Ashley Young has arguably been Manchester United’s poorest performer in their terrible run of form, while Diogo Dalot has had his fair share of defensive problems. But, the young Portuguese defender is offering more on both ends of the pitch, meaning Solskjaer could take a chance with him against City.
Up ahead in midfield, Herrera might be a part of the matchday squad. But, Nemanja Matic’s horror showing against Everton has shown the pitfalls of drafting a player returning from injury immediately into the starting lineup, meaning Herrera might only be an option on the bench.
Matic ought to be dropped as well, with Scott McTominay returning to the side. The Scot will likely be tasked with keeping a check on David Silva, while Paul Pogba will be up against Fernandinho. Fred should start again, but will need to do better after his recent underwhelming displays.
Up ahead in attack, Anthony Martial is on the chopping block after failing miserably in three successive games. In his place, Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez will fancy their chances of starting, with the former likely to get the nod. Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku will complete the lineup for the hosts, with David de Gea starting in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): de Gea; Dalot, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Fred, Pogba; Lingard, Lukaku, Rashford
Pep Guardiola will be without two first-team players in the Manchester derby, with Kevin De Bruyne being the major absentee for Manchester City. The Belgian playmaker picked up a muscular injury in the 1-0 win over Tottenham, and Guardiola has ruled him out of Wednesday’s game.
In his place, David Silva is set to start, with the Spaniard now having the bulk of the responsibility to pull the strings from the middle of the park. Phil Foden had been one of the stars in the win over Spurs and is in contention to start in a Manchester derby for the first time.
The young Englishman might fancy his chances, but Bernardo Silva could drop into the midfield against Manchester United. The change in the Portuguese’s role should mean Leroy Sane starts in attack, with the objective being to stretch the Manchester United defence and make room for the midfielders in the final third.
Sane will have Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero for company in the attacking unit, with the duo being in fine form all through the season and earning nomination to win the PFA Player of the Year along with Bernardo Silva.
At the back, there could be a couple of changes in order, with Benjamin Mendy starting as the left-back in place of Oleksandr Zinchenko. The other change in defence should see club captain Vincent Kompany starting at the heart of the Manchester City defence alongside Aymeric Laporte. Kyle Walker will be the right-back for the visitors, with Edeson starting in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Mendy; Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, David Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane
- Wednesday’s encounter will be the 160th league meeting between Manchester United and Manchester City. The Red Devils have won 62, drawn 51 and lost 46 of the previous such games.
- Each of Manchester United’s last three permanent managers have lost their first league meeting with Manchester City in charge of the club (David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho), with Sir Alex Ferguson the last to win his first such contest, 2-0 in March 1987.
- No side has won more Premier League away games at Old Trafford than Manchester City (6, level with Chelsea).
- No visiting manager in Premier League history has won on three consecutive trips to Old Trafford, with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola one of just three to win both of his first two (also Sam Allardyce and Ronald Koeman).
- No player has scored more goals in Premier League meetings between Manchester United and Manchester City than Sergio Aguero (8, level with Wayne Rooney). In fact, only Alan Shearer (10) has scored more Premier League goals against Manchester United than the Argentinian.
Player to Watch
David de Gea
A difficult overall season for Manchester United has also been one to forget for David de Gea. While the Spaniard has shown flashes of brilliance, his best performances have only come irregularly, with errors starting to uncharacteristically creep into his game.
On Wednesday, however, Manchester United cannot help but count on de Gea to produce the exploits that have made him the revered figure he is today. The Spanish custodian also cannot afford any slip-ups on a personal level, as the biggest game of the season beckons.
Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City
For a long time, Wednesday’s fixture has been billed as one that will decide who wins the Premier League title once and for all. Apart from influencing the title race, the result will also affect the chase for a top four spot, making it a game that will have the slimmest of margins of error.
But, if recent performances are anything to go by, there can only be one standout favourite to prevail at Old Trafford, with Manchester United just not proving to be good enough lately. And while anything can happen during a derby, it is hard to look past Manchester City for this one.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might finally get some sort of reaction that he has been searching since the 3-0 loss to Barcelona, meaning the match might be a close one to call for the most part. But, the defending champions should do more than enough to grab all three points, and The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Manchester City, with the hosts receiving another blow in the top four race.