Predicted XI: [4-3-3] Ronaldo needs to find the service to score; United need to grind out wins

Manchester United will face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the second Manchester derby of the Premier League season. United were beaten 2-0 at Old Trafford back in November in a match which shows the fragile state of United.

However, time has passed and United, despite looking far from convincing, have pulled through a string of positive results under the management of Ralf Rangnick. United may be out of luck lifting anything this season but have pride to play for.

United’s participation in the Emirates FA Cup ended in February and their UEFA Champions League participation rests on the round of 16 second leg clash with Atletico Madrid in a few weeks after a 1-1 draw in Madrid. Finishing at least fourth in the league is all United really have to play for.

That said, the future for United is all but certain. Rangnick will manage the club until the end of the season and until a new manager has been announced, United will not be ready to move on from this decade post-Sir Alex Ferguson which has been abject, infuriating and badly managed.

Previous meetings with City and their connections with United.

United and City have met a total of 49 times in the Premier League. United have won 24 times, drawing nine matches with City winning 16 times. United have scored 70 goals, winning five penalties, scoring four. City have scored 63 goals, winning one penalty, missing it.

United have kept 18 clean sheets in these fixtures with City keeping 11. Discipline is a problem with United player shown 85 yellow cards and seven red cards and City players shown 108 yellow cards and one red card. The Manchester derby is usually a fiery clash.

Billy Meredith, Denis Law, Brian Kidd, Terry Cooke, Peter Schmeichel, Andrew Cole, Carlos Tevez, Owen Hargreaves, Abbie McManus, Jane Ross, Aoife Mannion, Charlie McNeill (academy) and Jadon Sancho have played for both teams in Manchester.

Meredith played over 700 matches for United and City combined in a 30-year period, including a five-year break in play because of WWI. Law, Kidd, Schmeichel, Cole, Tevez and Hargreaves were a success at United. Perhaps Sancho and McNeill can follow in their footsteps.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Manchester City in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea must start to command his back four into not making mistakes and working together to grind out the wins that will be needed for United to prevail this season. The Spanish goalkeeper has risen in form but United still are not strong defensively.

It is imperative that United break through and find some defensive steel this season. That is the main problem at the club right now. In one match, the defence can put in a commanding performance but in the next, they could look like amateurs.

De Gea has seen United at their very best and is one of only three players to have won a league title for the club, the others being Phil Jones and Cristiano Ronaldo. It is time for the real United to stand up and make themselves counted or the future will be just adjective as the recent past.

Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Raphaël Varane, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles

Aaron Wan-Bissaka started at right-back against Watford, but against City, perhaps Dalot could be the better option based on his attacking play from that position. Of course, he will need to be on par defensively too. Alex Telles could start at left-back, which could work well too.

Harry Maguire had a great performance against Leeds United a fortnight ago and that commanding performance needs to ring through against City if United are to get anything from this match. Last season, United earned four points against City, earning none so far this season.

Raphaël Varane is perhaps the most decorated defender at the club this season and he does what he needs to do almost silently and not attracting much attention. He’s good in both defensive and attacking positions, especially from set-pieces – which United need to make more of.

Midfield Three: Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes

Scott McTominay’s return from illness comes at a great time for United. He will put in a lot of work against City and will be passionate and seeking a victory. He can mop up defensively and also get forward on and off the ball to support the attack – creativity is needed though.

Paul Pogba’s return from injury came at a good time as United’s midfield was lacklustre and needed something different. He has performed well but seems to tire in the second half, which should be something he has overcome by now. He needs to show something positive against City.

Bruno Fernandes has put in a lot of work recently but it has not always paid off for both him and United, leading him to cut a somewhat frustrated figure on the pitch. He is a quality player and will get on the end of things but he cannot do it all on his own.

Forwards: Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Anthony Elanga

Cristiano Ronaldo is not having a great time at this stage of the season. Much like his compatriot, Fernandes, he is a rather frustrated figure at the club. He has played so many matches in a short period of time but may have to lead the line against City too.

Anthony Elanga has risen to the heights of the first team based on his performances. He has scored some good goals for the club since making his debut at the end of last season. He can bring a lot to this squad of players and has everything to gain from the experience.

Jadon Sancho is a player who has started to show signs of his immense ability in the Premier League. He will be seeking to start against his former club, now that he has started to find some positive form. Could he be the difference on the pitch against City?

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelöf, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw; Jesse Lingard, Fred, Nemanja Matic; Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani

Rangnick can name nine substitutes on the bench for this match; using just three of them. The right balance of players will need to be on the bench for this match as United could do with three points against City, which may not be all that likely considering their current form.

I would expect to see Dean Henderson on the bench again with De Gea starting over him. In defence, Victor Lindelöf, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw should be available should defensive reinforcements be needed, which is likely against City.

Jesse Lingard, Fred and Nemanja Matic could provide a boost in the midfield and even the attacking positions later intros match, if needed. In attack, United should have both Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani, which will leave United less reliant on Ronaldo.

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.