Manchester United will be back in Premier League action on Sunday afternoon, welcoming Manchester City to Old Trafford. Back in December, during a big week for United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side beat both City and Tottenham Hotspur in 2-1 scorelines, which was not something many expected to happen. United has faced City twice since then, losing 3-1 and winning 1-0 with both wins against City at the Etihad.
Pep Guardiola’s side will come to the Theatre of Dreams full of confidence after winning the Carabao Cup for the third time in a row last weekend, which is not really a big bragging right considering most City fans did not treat it like it was a major trophy when they did not win it. But now, it seems to be something to brag about – how strange. United need to beat City at Old Trafford, which could see them do the double over them.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Manchester City in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea has been hot and cold this season. There are times when he shows that he is nearing the form he had which helped label him as one of the best goalkeepers in world football but at other times, he looks like that rookie goalkeeper that signed for the club just under a decade ago. De Gea will need to ensure his mistakes are behind him – especially when coming up against City, who have an eye for a goal or two and can make that happen against United. With both teams well out of the title race – City being 22 points behind Liverpool, pride is all that both will be playing for but United also need to break into the top four this season to earn UEFA Champions League football next season.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
The defence have been playing well recently with United on a nine match unbeaten run right now, scoring 22 goals but only conceding two, keeping seven clean sheets in all competitions they have played in; the Premier League, Emirates FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire missed the 3-0 victory over Derby County on Thursday evening with Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly both playing. These four players could become the best four-man defence United has at the club at this current time with Bailly and Maguire forming to become a competent central defensive partnership. United will need to be at their best against City. They know what could happen but so do City, being on the end of two defeats against United already this season.
Midfield: Fred, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay
The midfield trio of Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay is the strongest midfield United can play at this moment in time. When Paul Pogba is back and performing, one of these three players could miss out, two if the formation changes with Bruno Fernandes playing further forward at this moment in time, which might just be because of injuries to the squad right now. Recently, Fred and McTominay have scored three goals between them with Matic getting much more involved from his deeper midfield position. With these three playing behind Fernandes, Martial and Ighalo, the defence will be safer and there will be plenty of work linking the defence to the midfield and attack, which has been missing for much of the season due to injury, in the most part.
Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
The Portuguese midfielder has been in top form since he arrived at the club in January. In seven appearances so far, Bruno Fernandes has three goals and two assists, which is good to see. The ability he puts into his performances shows that United were missing out when they did not buy him last summer and if that happened, this season could have been much different. However, we can only think about what could happen now he is here. He is unplayable on his day and this being the first time he will be playing in a local derby, he could be a deciding factor in the game. The creativity he offers shows just what he can do with might be something Pep Guardiola needs to structure his team for.
Forwards: Odion Ighalo, Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial and Odion Ighalo could be the duo to carry United forward at this stage of the season with both players getting involved with the goals this season. In the past week alone, the Nigerian striker has scored three goals and Martial scoring 15 this season, which is close to his best season at the club – his first season which saw him score 17 goals with 11 in the Premier League along – he has 10 so far this season. Ighalo knows how to score a goal and hold up the ball with Martial using his trickery to get the better of his opposition. It could be a good move for Solskjaer.
Substitutes: Sergio Romero; Tim Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe, Brandon Williams; Juan Mata, Daniel James; Mason Greenwood
Solskjaer will need to have capable players on the bench. With two top players on the sidelines through injury, he will have to make do with the squad he has – for now. Sergio Romero, after keeping another clean sheet on Thursday will move to the bench with Tim Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe and Brandon Williams adding to the depth of defensive players on the bench – they may be needed at some point. Juan Mata and Daniel James could be the only midfield players on the bench for this game with Mason Greenwood the only outright attacking player available, especially if both Martial and Ighalo are played from the start, which is how it should be.