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Preview: Solskjaer needs to set United up to beat City to get back on track; after three draws, these players need to stand up and be counted

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Manchester City -v- Manchester United

Premier League

Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Sunday 7 March 2021, KO 16:30 GMT

Referee: Anthony Taylor Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn

Fourth Official: Mike Dean

VAR: Paul Tierney Assistant VAR: Harry Lennard

Manchester United face the biggest match of the Premier League season when they travel to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have drawn the last three matches in a row with the same 0-0 scoreline, which at this stage is a problem as United did not seem to be able to score any goals. Pep Guardiola’s City sit at the top of the Premier League, having a 14 point lead over United, which was not the case in January. Solskjaer’s side will need to find a way to break down the league leaders, which will be problematic as they are in great form, winning all of their last six matches, which will see them push to win the league at some point next month. United need to get a win on the board to save their season.

Last season, Solskjaer did the double over City, winning both at home and away, also beating them in one of the semi-final legs of the Carabao Cup, losing the other and seeing themselves knocked out of the competition, which was the same this season, although it was just a one-legged tie. United are unbeaten in their last ten matches in all competitions, their last seven in the Premier League. However, in the league, the majority of the last seven matches (six) were all draws which is not great form heading into the biggest match of the season for Solskjaer and his United squad. David De Gea looks to be out of action for the foreseeable future, after becoming a father so this will be an even bigger match for Dean Henderson.

Manchester United: DDDWWD

Crystal Palace 0-0 D, Chelsea 0-0 D, Real Sociedad 0-0 D, Newcastle United 3-1 W, Real Sociedad 4-0 W, West Bromwich Albion 1-1 D

Manchester City: WWWWWW

Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-1 W, West Ham United 2-1 W, Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-0 W, Arsenal 1-0 W, Everton 3-1 W, Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 W

Top Scorers: Manchester United have not scored a single goal in their last three matches; Fernandes and Rashford have 40 goals between them this season.

Manchester United Goals: 22 – Bruno Fernandes, 18 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 5 – Daniel James, 4 – Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Own Goal, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Victor Lindelof, Donny van de Beek

United have drawn their last three matches in a row with the same 0-0 scoreline, which is poor. Against Crystal Palace earlier in the week, it seemed that United were devoid of confidence and had no ability to breakdown the home side, which is a major worry heading into the second Manchester derby of the season with United needing a win so badly. Solskjaer’s side have not been defeated in their last ten matches in all competitions and still have their good form away from home, which leave some hope left on the table for a good result to keep their away form record running. Solskjaer will need to get his squad to stand up and be counted against the Premier League leaders.

Manchester City Goals: 13 – Ilkay Gündogan, Raheem Sterling, 11 – Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus, 8 – Riyad Mahrez, Ferran Torres, 5 – Bernardo Silva, 4 – John Stones, 3 – Kevin De Bruyne, 2 – Sergio Agüero, João Cancelo, Kyle Walker, 1 – Nathan Aké, Liam Delap, Rúben Dias, Fernandinho, Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy, Rodri

City are the team to beat this season. Back in January, with them playing fewer matches than United, they were languishing outside of the top four with United climbing to the top of the Premier League table. United’s form dropped and it allowed City to open up a 14 point lead over them at the top of the table, which is some comeback for Guardiola’s side. City have won their last six matches, scoring 15 goals, conceding three and keeping three clean sheets, which is the form of a club that is seeking to regain the Premier League title after Liverpool won it last season. United are still in the race but as each draw happens, their chances dip and it seems unlikely, as it did back in January when they topped the league. There has been progress though.

Team News: Four players ruled out for United with three more subject to late fitness tests ahead of the Manchester derby; City have no injury worries with one players close to returning to action at this stage of the season.

Phil Jones (knee), David De Gea (personal), Juan Mata (other) and Paul Pogba (thigh) have all been ruled out of the clash with City this weekend, which is a blow with De Gea being out of action, but he became a father for the first time on Thursday, so he should spend time with his new family. Victor Lindelof (lower back) seems to have suffered a recurrence of his injury, although he was on the bench in the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on Wednesday evening. Anthony Martial (knee) was missing earlier in the week and has a 50% chance of recovering in time to face City whereas Donny van de Beek (other) was also missing but he has only a 25% chance of being fit to face City, which leave United with a few problems to solve this weekend.

Nathan Ake was the only player on the sidelines for City heading into the second Manchester derby of the season. The central defender looks to be in contention for the clash at the Etihad Stadium having a 75% chance of being fit in time for the 16:30 kick-off on Sunday. City have a strong team and have done for the past few years with Guardiola doing all the right things to set his team up domestically. United will have a big task on their hands to get a good result against the Noisy Neighbours but it is a possibility. United players will need to be fired up to face their rivals, who are 14 points ahead of them in the Premier League table. Solskjaer will need to get his tactics right and the players will need to stand up and be counted.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford to lead the line against City, supported by Bruno Fernandes; Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay to play in a three-man midfield?

Solskjaer has few options at this stage of the season with four players ruled out of this match and three more not yet fit to take part, which could change before Sunday come around. Edinson Cavani returned from injury during the week and looks set to keep his place in the team. Solskjaer should perhaps chance the shape of the team, using two forwards instead of one and letting the fullbacks provide the width, to see if it gives them any luck against City, who will be pushing United into their own half to take charge of the clash. A midfield trio of Nemanja Matic, Fred and Scott McTominay is the best we can hope for at this stage with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw in defence with Dean Henderson in goal.

Match Prediction: United and City will meet for the 48th time in the Premier League on Sunday. United have won 23 times, drawing nine and losing 15 but City will be the team to beat this season.

United and City have met 47 times in the history of the Premier League with this weekend’s Manchester derby the 48th in the English top flight. United have won 23 times, drawing nine times with City winning 15 times. United have scored 68 goals against City, conceding 61. United have been awarded a total of four penalties, scoring three of them with City being awarded one penalty and failing to score it. United have kept 17 clean sheets against City with the Blue side of Manchester keeping 10 clean sheets. United’s players have been shown 81 yellow cards and seven red cards with City’s players shown 106 yellow cards and one red card. City are currently 14 points clear of United and to avoid falling further behind, United need to win this match.

Earlier this season, it was a 0-0 draw between United and City in the first Manchester derby of the Premier League. United met City in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup, losing that match 2-0 at the start of January. Almost a year ago on the 8 March 2020, United and City met at Old Trafford in the Premier League last season. It was the last match that United played in front of supporters at home and they beat City 2-0 with Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay scoring the goals. Last season at the Etihad, played on the 7 December 2019, United were the victors with a 2-1 victory with Marcus Rashford opening the score from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute and Martial doubling the lead six minutes later. Nicolas Otamendi scored a consolation.

Manchester City 1-2 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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