Manchester United face Manchester City in the second Manchester derby of the Premier League season on Saturday afternoon. The last time these two teams faced each other, City were the victors, going 4-0 up before Antony scored. City then went 6-1 up before Anthony Martial scored a goal and a penalty to give United some face in defeat. Despite the score and the result, it was a better outcome for United than it could have been.
United are now on an eight-match winning run, scoring three goals in each of their three matches, putting them in a much better position against City this weekend. In the last eight matches, United have scored 21 goals, conceding four and keeping five clean sheets. City’s form is good but in recent weeks Everton managed to get a 1-1 draw and on Wednesday evening in the quarter final of the Carabao Cup, Southampton knocked them out.
Pep Guardiola will have to change the mentality of his team ahead of this derby at Old Trafford which will see United use their current form to try and get one over them. Guardiola seemed to be rattled by Southampton, the bottom team in the Premier League knocking them out of the competition that they have been most successful in. It goes to show that form is temporary and even the teams that have world class players in every position can still lose.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw;
Antony, Fernandes, Rashford;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea has been in great form this season and he will need to be at his best when City come to the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday. City have scored 69 goals in all competitions this season with Erling Haaland scoring 27 of those. The Norwegian striker is going to be a big problem for United, even if if form and the form of his team has been questionable in the last few matches or so. City were terrible against Southampton in the Carabao Cup.
But this is the Premier League and City will be seeking right the wrongs from the Southampton match and will start their big guns against United. The one thing Ten Hag will have done with this United team is get them ready for the big matches this season. United have already beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur this season, drawing against Chelsea and the only other top six team in the Premier League to beat them was City.
De Gea will need to be up for the challenge of City and be ready to give the best of his goalkeeping ability, which is something that he can do for this club. United need to forget what City have done in the past and think more about what they have done in the past. This match, at least in the last few seasons, has been lost before a ball has been kicked. United are a much tougher team to beat now and they should demonstrate that to City.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw
United could see the return of their best defensive partnership against City. Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez have been that for United this season. The Argentinian FIFA World Cup winner has been an inspiration for United this season and despite the major concerns, from the pundits, about his height – he has proved them all wrong. Varane was rested for the Charlton match so he should be fresh and ready to go against City.
Martinez adds some steel to United’s back four which was not previously there, unless you look back to the time of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, which was when United had a defence as good as this one. It is about time that United found the player they really needed to shore up the defence. Aaron Wan-Bissaka could get the nod to face City with Diogo Dalot’s fitness in doubt after he came off against Charlton, which was a shame.
Luke Shaw will most likely slot back in at left-back against City, although he has been playing on the left side of the defence, playing in a new role for him, which could have been with a view of him playing in that position against Barcelona, at least for the first leg with Martinez suspended. Shaw has been a decent player for United this season, scoring one goal and two assists so far. Of course, he does a lot more on the pitch than that though.
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
United’s midfield has been questionable for many years now with nothing really working – including Paul Pogba’s return from Juventus. In the summer, Ten Hag signed both Christian Eriksen – on a free and Casemiro after presumably chasing Frenkie de Jong of Barcelona all summer. The result of the summer transfer window seems to have been the best one for United with Casemiro being one of the standout players this season.
The Brazilian took some time to settle in at the club but the victory over Everton in the Premier League was the starting point for the success of the former Real Madrid defensive midfielder and since then, he has performed over and over again, scoring two goals and three assists, which shows just what an impact he has at United. Eriksen has been another standout performer this season and for him to have been a free agent was brilliant.
The Denmark international has two goals to his name this season but it is his eight assists that really shows the impact he has had at United. Thinking about what he suffered in Euro 2020 and how far he has come since then is admirable. To be able to do that shows what a professional he is. United have other options too with Fred in good form at this stage of the season, scoring two goals so far. Scott McTominay is another option.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Rashford
The attacking midfield areas are perhaps the most important for United so far this season. Goals have been a problem in the past but that is a work in progress for United, who have scored three goals in each of their last three matches. Antony should start against City. He scored in the last match and now has five goals for United in his debut season at the club – and he does score some great finishes, despite not standing out once he has scored.
Bruno Fernandes missed the victory over Charlton Athletic on Tuesday through suspension so will be rested for this match against City, which is a big bonus. The Portuguese midfielder has not been as prolific in front of goal as he was when he signed for United three years ago but he still has something. Fernandes has scored three goals and four assists so far this season and will be seeking to be on the end of more chances as the weeks go on.
Marcus Rashford is the man of the moment for United. He has 15 goals and five assists so far this season and the match against Crystal Palace next week will signal the halfway point of the season. Rashford did not do well last season but Ten Hag seems to have improved his game and created a finisher, which is something United so desperately needed. Rashford will be wanting to get the better of City so much and that could inspire him and United to win.
Anthony Martial is not in great form at this stage of the season. He has scored five goals and two assists so far this season but being clinical in front of goal is not something that he is doing all that well. Which is why Ten Hag has made the move for an experienced striker with Wout Weghorst only a matter of time away from being a Manchester United player. United have nobody else that can lead the line and score the goals.
In the summer, the club will need to solve the problem permanently, which is going to cost money and we know how the Glazers feel about doing things like that, especially when they have chained the club to debt they placed on it after not having their own money to purchase the club almost 20 years ago. It is criminal what they have done to United – but it will be the club that has to pay their debt even if they sell the club.
Martial needs to find something or Weghorst’s arrival could be the end of him. Granted, the 30-year-old is not going to be starting every match and may not be a hit straight away but we know what Martial has been doing recently and has failed to step up and hold himself to account, so the unknown with Weghorst will be new and could cost the Frenchman some minutes almost immediately as the Dutchman arrives at the club.
Substitutes: Butland; Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia; Fred, Pellistri, McTominay; Elanga, Garnacho
United will have nine substitutes on the bench against City with the ability to use five of them during the course of the match. It is likely that reinforcements will be needed later in the match with United also likely to be on the brunt end of lots of attacking football with City licking their wounds from a Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Southampton on Wednesday. Jack Butland could be on the bench for United – waiting to make his debut for the club.
In defence, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Tyrell Malacia could be available for United. Brandon Williams could also be an option but that could give the bench a heavy presence of defensive players with attacking players also needed. United will need to rejig a few things during the match with the 6-3 defeat back in October fresh in their minds. United have a talented squad and will need to push themselves to beat City this weekend.
In the midfield, United could have the likes of Fred, Facundo Pellistri and Scott McTominay to utilise, should they need to. Pellistri got an assist against Charlton on Tuesday after making his debut for United. He should be given more time as he really is a talented player. In attack, Anthony Elanga, who I don’t feel it good enough for United and Alejandro Garnacho, who is a future superstar, should both be available with the latter likely to make a mark.
Written by John Walker