Sunday 12th March – 16:00 – Old Trafford
Top-dog in Manchester will be on the line when United and City – separated by one point and one place – head into the 169th derby at Old Trafford tomorrow. United, buoyed by five successive Premier League victories, are confident they can restore red ascendancy in the city by avoiding a fifth successive derby defeat. The Red Devils have more silverware in their trophy cabinet, but City have had the better of their local rivals during the last couple of years. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have now dropped down to fourth after their morale-sapping 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace on Monday and trail leaders Chelsea by nine points. United, meanwhile, have put their early season struggles behind them to climb to third, eight points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool in the race for Champions League qualification. Last weekend they beat strugglers Aston Villa 3-1, as confidence remains high on Sir Matt Busby Way. It’s all about the Manchester mini-league now and Chelsea and Arsenal would cheer a draw and Liverpool, strangely, a United win, as they look to capitalise on City losing form at just the wrong time.
The Key Battle: Juan Mata vs Yaya Toure
After being virtually frozen out of the United team at the start of the season, Juan Mata is hitting form at the moment and is key to the Red Devils’ top four challenge.
After scoring both of their goals in their 2-1 away win over Liverpool at Anfield in March, Mata was dubbed a “false right winger” by Louis Van Gaal, who appeared delighted, not only with the Spaniard’s brace, but the effectiveness of his role, cutting inside from the flanks.
Mata will drift across the midfield and cause havoc for a recently shaky Manchester City defence, meaning Yaya Toure will have to have a good game in his holding role protecting the back four.
After recovering from an Achilles problem, despite scoring a fine long range strike, Toure couldn’t stop City to falling to a defeat at Crystal Palace.
He may not be as impressive as last season, but the Ivorian could be Manuel Pellegrini’s side most potent threat in the derby, unless Sergio Aguero recovers form, which is a dilemma as Toure’s main job is a defensive midfielder.
The question is, will Pellegrini allow him to roam and therefore create chances, but at the same time leave the defence open to an attack that has been lethal in recent games.
- Striker Robin van Persie will miss out despite returning to training following an ankle injury.
- Luke Shaw is injured and Jonny Evans continues to serve his six match suspension.
- Youngster James Wilson returned to action with the reserves in midweek but is a doubt, as is Chris Smalling through illness.
- City will assess captain Vincent Kompany, who has a hamstring injury and remains doubtful.
- Wilfried Bony is sidelined by ankle and knee problems, while Dedryck Boyata and Stevan Jovetic will also miss out.
- After Edin Dzeko’s miserable performance against Crystal Palace, Manuel Pellegrini may revert to the lone striker system, with David Silva tucked in behind Sergio Aguero.
Manchester United wins = 65 / Manchester City wins = 45 / Draws = 49
Last Meeting: Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United (2nd November 2014)
Manchester City won a chaotic derby at Etihad Stadium as Sergio Aguero’s second-half strike gave the Premier League champions victory over Manchester United. The Argentine’s 10th Premier League goal of the season finally breached a depleted United defence after Chris Smalling had been sent off in the first half and Marcos Rojo taken off on a stretcher after the break with shoulder damage. In a game that was played on the edge of ill-discipline and often strayed into it, Aguero’s goal will have felt like vindication to City and their fans, infuriated at seeing a succession of presentable penalty appeals rejected by referee Michael Oliver.
Stat of the Match
Manchester City can claim five successive league wins against Manchester United for the first time. It would also be the first time a Premier League side has won five in a row against United.
Where can I watch it?
Sky Sports 1 are showing the derby live on Sunday afternoon from 3:30pm, with kick-off half an hour later. Match of the Day 2 will then have the highlights on BBC One at 10:30pm.
My Prediction: Manchester United 2-2 Manchester City
This depends whether the realisation at Manchester City that if they carry on with their dismal form they could lose out on a top four place. If it has, then Pellegrini’s side will come out all guns blazing in the derby, with Sergio Aguero and David Silva hitting the back of the net. But it’s unlikely to be enough to counter an in-form United side, who are full on confidence and will also score two through Wayne Rooney. Should be a cracker.