Manchester United will be hoping to continue their unbeaten run when they welcome neighbours Manchester City to Old Trafford on Sunday.
Gameweek 29 of the 2019-20 Premier League season continues, with two mouthwatering fixtures on show on Sunday. The day ends with a high stakes derby, as Manchester United play hosts to Manchester City at Old Trafford, hoping to reclaim fifth spot on the table at the very least.
For Manchester United, it has been a blow-hot-blow-cold season right from the onset, although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are starting to find some sort of consistency in their game of late. The Red Devils have not been beaten in any of their last nine games across all competitions, keeping a clean sheet in seven of those games.
Manchester City, on the other hand, have not dropped as many points as Manchester United over the course of the season so far. However, 2019-20 has still been a disappointing campaign, at least as far as the Premier League is concerned, with Pep Guardiola’s charges embarking on a meek defence of their title this term. The visitors, though, have won each of their last five games.
Manchester United and Manchester City have already locked horns on three occasions this season, with United coming out on top in two of those games, losing the remaining clash. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is sweating over the fitness of three regulars ahead of the visit of Manchester City. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (back), Daniel James (knock) and Manchester United captain Harry Maguire (ankle) are all minor doubts, and are fighting a race against time to make themselves available for the derby.
Solskjaer rated Maguire’s availability as “touch and go”, but the magnitude of the game means he should start against Manchester City. If Maguire is not fit enough to start, Eric Bailly will partner up with Victor Lindelof at the heart of the Manchester United defence once again.
Wan-Bissaka, too, would be given every chance to return, considering his importance to the side. The Englishman should be Manchester United’s right-back, with the in-form Luke Shaw starting on the left once again. In goal, David de Gea should return, coming in for Sergio Romero.
As for the formation, Solskjaer could revert to the 4-3-1-2 formation that he used against Everton in the Premier League last week, with Nemanja Matic, Fred and Scott McTominay starting in the middle of the park once again.
Bruno Fernandes has been the game changer for Manchester United since arriving from Sporting Lisbon in January. Fernandes will be deployed in a free role once again, with the Portuguese midfielder looking to pull the strings in the final third.
Odion Ighalo impressed once again earlier this week, but the on-loan striker should drop down to the bench and will likely be used as an impact substitute against Manchester City. Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood will, therefore, be the strike partnership once again, with the duo looking to drift wide at times to stretch the Manchester City defence.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Matic, Fred; Fernandes; Greenwood, Martial
Like his counterpart in the Manchester United dugout, Pep Guardiola has a major injury concern to contend with ahead of his side’s latest fixture. Kevin De Bruyne is struggling with a shoulder injury, although the Manchester City manager hinted that the Belgian could be fit enough to start against Manchester United.
Aymeric Laporte (hamstring) and Leroy Sane (match fitness), though, are certain to miss out for Manchester City on Sunday. Meanwhile, Guardiola has some key selection decisions to make across the pitch ahead of the derby.
While Ederson Moraes is a certain starter between the sticks, Fernandinho’s partner at the heart of the Manchester City defence will be an interesting choice. John Stones has been in decent touch of late, but Nicolas Otamendi could get the nod against Manchester United. Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy, though, pick themselves as the full-back pairing.
Up ahead in midfield, De Bruyne and Rodri are automatic picks, with the latter tasked with breaking up attacks and keeping a check on Bruno Fernandes’s output. As for the third spot, Ilkay Gundogan could pip David Silva, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva due to his form heading into the fixture.
In attack, there is no looking past Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and the in-form Riyad Mahrez to start against Manchester United. Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva are possible options to play across the frontline coming off the bench as and when required.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Otamendi, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling
- Manchester United have lost their last three home games against Manchester City in all competitions. The Red Devils have only been on the losing end of four such games on the bounce against their neighbours once previously, between January 1926 and February 1931.
- The away side has won six of the last seven matches between Manchester United and Manchester City in all competitions, with the exception a 3-1 home win for City in November 2018.
- Manchester United have kept a clean sheet in three of their last four home league games, including each of the last two. They last recorded three consecutive shutouts at Old Trafford back in February 2018.
- Manchester City are unbeaten in all 10 of their Premier League games in March under manager Pep Guardiola (W8 D2), winning each of the last seven in a row. Coincidentally, their last defeat in the month came in 2016 against United.
- In all competitions, Sergio Aguero has netted nine goals in Manchester derby matches. Only Wayne Rooney (11), Joe Hayes (10) and Francis Lee (10) have netted more in the fixture. Meanwhile, in the Premier League, only Steven Gerrard (five) has scored more goals at Old Trafford as a visiting player than Aguero (four).
Player to Watch
A key factor in Manchester United’s fine unbeaten run has to be Bruno Fernandes and his form. The January signing has hit the ground running since arriving from Sporting Lisbon nearly six weeks ago and has played a key role in just about every positive result the Red Devils have mustered up in the period.
Fernandes will hold the key once again when Manchester City pay Manchester United a visit on Sunday. In fact, this game will be the biggest test yet of the Portuguese international’s credentials, as he looks to stamp his authority at Old Trafford. Can Fernandes inspire Manchester United to another crucial win? We will soon know.
Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City
This is a match that is hard to call. Manchester United faltered massively against Everton, missing out on the opportunity to get into the top four. Manchester City’s two-year European ban, though, means that United could reach the UEFA Champions League even if they finish fifth, although they will still want to cover their bases.
Regaining the fifth spot, though, will not be straightforward, with Manchester City in a fine run of form. While the visitors have not exactly been explosive, they have been getting the job done, although their inconsistencies in the final third ought to give Manchester United a chance to grab all three points.
Both sides will have decent options coming off the bench, but the form of Bruno Fernandes coupled with Kevin De Bruyne’s fitness and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s track record in big games will be major factors in the final outcome.
We think Manchester United have the slightest of edges ahead of the game, which is why The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for the hosts. And, depending on the result in Chelsea’s game against Everton earlier in the day, this result could catapult Manchester United to fourth on the table.