The 183rd Manchester derby will be played at Old Trafford on Saturday evening, in the Premier League. Manchester United beat Manchester City both home and away in the league last season and will be seeking to do the same thing this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be looking to come back from a 3-2 defeat to RB Leipzig on Tuesday evening, which also saw them exit the UEFA Champions League and fall into the UEFA Europa League, of which the draw for the round of 32 stage will take place on Monday. Pep Guardiola’s side have endured a tough season which sees then below United before a ball is kicked at the Theatre of Dreams.
This season, United have been pretty inconsistent on the pitch but have somehow managed to find themselves sitting in sixth place in the Premier League, just five points from the top spot with a game in hand over all of the clubs above them. In the league, United have found the best consistency they have, winning their last four matches. In the Champions League, after a good start (winning the first two matches) a defeat followed by a win and two defeats on the bounce saw them fall from top place in the group to third placed after their final group stage match. City, on the other hand, qualified for the knockout stages of the competition.
How United have faired against Manchester City in the Premier League.
United and City have met a total of 46 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 23 times whereas City have won 15 times with eight draws between the two clubs. United have scored a total of 68 goals, winning and scoring three penalties. City have scored a total of 61 goals, winning one penalty and failing to score it. United have kept a total of 16 clean sheets against City, with the Noisy Neighbours keeping just nine clean sheets. In terms of discipline, United have been shown a total of 80 yellow cards and seven red cards with City being shown a total of 105 yellow cards and just one red card.
Last season, United did the Premier League double over City. In the Manchester derby at Old Trafford which was played on the 8 March 2020, it was a 2-0 for United. Anthony Martial opened the scoring in the 30th minute of the match with Scott McTominay scoring United’s second deep into injury time. It was the last time supporters were at the Theatre of Dreams because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the Etihad, it was a 2-1 victory for United with Marcus Rashford taking the lead from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute of the match with Martial doubling the lead six minutes later. Nicolas Otamendi scored a late consolation goal.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Manchester City in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Saturday evening…
Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Last season, whilst at Sheffield United, Henderson played twice in the Premier League against City, conceding twice in the first meeting and once in the second. The 23-year-old is a promising player for United and could hold the keys to being the next number one at the club. David De Gea’s form has been questionable of late with 10 goals conceded in the past five matches. Henderson have played 404 minutes of football for United so far this season and will be expecting more playing time as he looks to become the number one goalkeeper for the club, which is a feat he is more than capable of completing.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence can have good days and bad days. In the past five matches, ten goals have been conceded and this needs to start changing. The players need to stand up and be counted in order for the club to prevail on and off the pitch. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw could play in the fullback positions in a back four with Axel Tuanzebe and Harry Maguire playing in the central defensive area. United are starting to get players back from injury with both Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof able to be called upon. I feel the latter would benefit from a break, keeping him fresh for the remainder of this tough month.
Midfield Three: Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay, Fred
United have a strong midfield, at least on paper. Solskjaer will need to find the best balance he has and a three-man midfield playing just behind Bruno Fernandes might work well to keep United in their matches. Of late, United have been dominated in midfield and that should not really be happening. Solskjaer will need to solve the defensive problem that he has with Nemanja Matic no longer able to start back to back matches. Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay and Fred might be the best options in this formation with Fred marking his opponents, McTominay doing the defensive-minded tasks and Van de Beek pushing forward to support Fernandes and the attacking players to open up the opposition defence, which he something he does well.
Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
The Portuguese midfielder has scored 11 goals and added seven assists so far this season, which is a great start for the player. He is obviously upset about United’s exit from the Champions League and will be looking to give his all for the club so that can overcome that defeat on Tuesday and their exit from the competition. The Europa League beckons once agains for United, which is not ideal but still a chance to win a trophy, which is what Solskjaer will be looking to do. Some problems will need to be ironed out before that happens though. Fernandes is an inspiration when in form and ready to go – hopefully that happens against City – his first Manchester derby since signing for the club in January 2020.
Forwards: Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood
Two homegrown players could lead the line for United in the Manchester derby, which will be a proud moment for both of them. This season, Marcus Rashford has scored ten goals for his club, providing three more assists whereas Mason Greenwood has scored three goals with two assists so far, which shows that more could be done but this is most likely down to the fact he has not played as many minutes as his teammate. Rashford and Greenwood are all United have to tackle City this weekend with the prospect that both Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial will be missing due to injury.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Eric Bailly, Alex Telles; Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Daniel James; Odion Ighalo
Three substitutes to make a difference in the Premier League should United’s starting XI not be able to do the business on the pitch. With the expected absences of Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial, United will be light in attacking players. David De Gea could be available on the bench with Henderson my pick to start against City. In defence, Eric Bailly and Alex Telles could offer something with Victor Lindelof and Brandon Williams rested ahead of a busy period ahead. In midfield, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Daniel James could be called upon with Odion Ighalo the sole attacking player on the bench.
Written by John Walker