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How Manchester United could look against Manchester City; 4-2-3-1 with United’s fluid attack set to become problematic for City’s defence? Pogba to return?

Manchester United will have to be at their best this weekend as their second big test of the week will commence at 17:30 GMT on Saturday evening as they face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League. With their 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday evening, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side rose to sixth in the Premier League but still find themselves 11 points behind their noisy neighbours, who are 11 points adrift of league leaders, Liverpool.

The starting XI might not change much from the team which faced and beat Jose Mourinho’s side at Old Trafford unless Solskjaer is able to include Paul Pogba, which may sound a bit premature, unless he is much fitter than has been alluded to over the past few weeks. We know that he has been training this week, so who knows? One thing is for sure though, United need to raise their game and show grit, fight and determination.

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

The Spanish number one was unlucky not to keep a clean sheet against Spurs on Wednesday but Dele Alli’s superb finishing got one back for Mourinho’s side at De Gea’s expense. Still, a win is a win and keeping a clean sheet, although good, is not necessary. De Gea is a great goalkeeper and the confidence of a big win over Spurs will help him look forward to the clash against City and hopefully be that player that the noisy neighbours cannot break down the resolve of with United reigning supreme in the first Manchester derby of the 2019/20 season.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw

The defence did well against Spurs and I think all but Ashley Young will keep their places in the starting XI this weekend. Luke Shaw should replace the veteran in the squad after playing just three minutes plus stoppage time in the 2-1 victory over Mourinho’s side. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has done well turning defence into attack and becoming a problem player on the right flank, which was problematic over the past few seasons. The duo of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire looked better against Spurs and Lindelof does raise his game when playing against better teams.

Midfield: Fred, Scott McTominay

The midfield worked their socks off against Spurs at Old Trafford and despite sitting out for about a month, including the international break, Scott McTominay did well to do what he did against Mourinho’s side. The Scottish international really is a player who brings confidence, composure and fight into the midfield. If Pogba is fit, he should not play in this area of the pitch, but further forward, occupying the number ten position in the centre of the attacking midfielders, behind the striker, which did him well last season. Fred had a great game against Spurs, and as he has shown in recent weeks, the more he plays, the better he seems to be getting. He has a way to go though.

Attacking Midfielders: Daniel James, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford

I think Solskjaer will retain the 4-2-3-1 formation away this weekend, which goes against his recent plan in which he reverted to a 3-4-3 formation, which largely has not worked. Daniel James, fresh from his promising appearance against Spurs will keep his place as will Jesse Lingard, who scored his first goal of 2019 against Astana in Kazakhstan last Thursday and showed some promise of his own against Spurs, despite needing to do a lot more to warrant a place in this team, especially if Pogba is fit. If the Frenchman is ready to start, Lingard will lose his place. Marcus Rashford, fresh from scoring a brace against Spurs will also keep his place. He has scored 12 goals for United this season and is confident enough to keep that run coming.

Striker: Mason Greenwood

Mason Greenwood started against Spurs on Wednesday evening and showed exactly what a true striker should have shown. He literally has no nerves which play on him, which is a good sign of a player who is ready to play in a first team environment in a top-flight league. Greenwood might be young in terms of age but as far as experience goes, the four goals he has scored this season, in line with the appearances he has made, both this season, during the summer and last season, it has certainly helped him show himself as a player for the future, and for now. I think he played better than Anthony Martial could have against Spurs.

Substitutes: Sergio Romero; Ashley Young, Axel Tuanzebe, Brandon Williams; Paul Pogba, Andreas Pereira, James Garner

The bench will be important against City as this will give Solskjaer something to think about if the team he has chosen is not able to cause any damage to City. Sergio Romero returned to the bench against Spurs. The likes of Ashley Young, Axel Tuanzebe and Brandon Williams could add something in defence, if needed with Paul Pogba (if fit enough), Andreas Pereira, and James Garner adding something in attack, creativity and pace. With Martial likely to be injured, there is a lack of attacking players to feature on the bench, unless youth is looked towards.

Preview: The victory over Spurs will have boosted United’s confidence to take on City; Solskjaer needs to rally his troops to get a much-needed win over City

Manchester City -v- Manchester United

Premier League

Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Saturday 7 December 2019, KO 17:30 GMT

Referee: Anthony Taylor Assistants: Gary Beswick; Adam Nunn Fourth Official: Mike Dean

VAR: Michael Oliver Assistant VAR: Marc Perry

Manchester United will travel to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday evening. After beating Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United jumped to to sixth place in the Premier League and are 11 points adrift of Pep Guardiola’s City and a further 11 points short of league leaders Liverpool.

The victory over Spurs gave United something to boost their confidence after a run of three matches without a victory and two Premier League draws against Sheffield United and Aston Villa, teams which were promoted from the Championship last season. It was not a good pair of results for United. Back to winning ways though, Solskjaer and United will be boosted and should take a game to City, who are not as good as they might think.

Form: United have three wins in the last six matches whereas City have just two. Based on this, it is the form of Guardiola’s team which is more worrying.

Manchester United: WDLDWW

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 W, Aston Villa 2-2 D, Astana 2-1 L, Sheffield United 3-3 D, Brighton And Hove Albion 3-1 W, Partizan Belgrade 3-0 W

Manchester City: WDDWLD

Burnley 4-1 W, Newcastle United 2-2 D, Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 D, Chelsea 2-1 W, Liverpool 3-1 L, Atalanta 1-1 D

Top Scorers: United has scored 14 goals in their last six matches with City scoring just 11 goals which could be a good confidence booster ahead of the clash at the Etihad on Saturday evening.

Manchester United Goals: 12 – Marcus Rashford, 5 – Anthony Martial, 4 – Mason Greenwood, 3 – Daniel James, Scott McTominay, 1 – Andreas Pereira, Brandon Williams, Jesse Lingard, Own Goal, Victor Lindelof

United has seemingly turned a corner this season. Solskjaer’s side has scored 14 goals in their last six matches, which is a good goalscoring record, well something to start with anyway. They have won three times, drawn twice and lost just once in those six matches. Now, with the season nearing the half way point, it is time for the real Manchester United to stand up and be counted, which is needed to properly turn the corner.

Manchester City Goals: 15 – Raheem Sterling, 13 – Sergio Agüero, 7 – Gabriel Jesus, 5 – Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, 4 – Kevin De Bruyne, 3 – Ilkay Gündogan, David Silva, 2 – Rodri, Nicolás Otamendi, 1 – Phil Foden, Kyle Walker

This season is not the greatest for Manchester City, who in the not too distant future were branded the best team of the Premier League era by some ‘fan boy’ journalists. Yet the same team are just not playing well against big teams and seem to be playing second fiddle to Liverpool, who are well in the lead in the league table. Pep Guardiola is a chequebook manager, this is evident. Sorry, not sorry.

Team News: Anthony Martial to miss the clash against City? Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic likely to return?

Solskjaer has yet more injury worries this season which has seemingly ruled Anthony Martial out of the clash with City this weekend. He also missed the 2-1 victory over Spurs on Wednesday evening. Eric Bailly, Tim Fosu-Mensah and Diogo Dalot are also out of this match with their returns more likely in the latter end of December, which will boost the manager, the squad and the supporters.

Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic have a slim chance of being back in action this weekend, however, that will be something the manager confirms on Friday during his press conference ahead of this match. Marcos Rojo should be close to returning, however, that may be unlikely for this match. Solskjaer might have the same players available which beat Jose Mourinho’s Spurs on Wednesday.

Guardiola could be without up to four players with Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane, and Sergio Aguero already ruled out of contention. Oleksandr Zinchenko could be close to returning for the reigning Premier League champions, however, it would see he has a small chance of returning this weekend. City will be boosted by their victory over Burnley but their current form is hardly something to brag about.

Predicted Starting XI: Greenwood, Rashford, Lingard, and James to continue in attach against City; Shaw back in the starting XI with McTominay and Fred keeping their places in midfield?

Solskjaer would probably like to make some changes to his starting XI against City, however, unless the likes of Pogba and Matic are fit to start, it is unlikely that he will be able to do this. I would expect to see the same starting XI which faced Spurs on Wednesday but with Luke Shaw starting ahead of Ashley Young in the left-back role. Pogba or Matic may be fit enough to make the bench but we will have to wait and see what Solskjaer says in his press conference one Friday morning.

Match Prediction: United are the underdogs against City at this moment in time and have ben for a number of years now. However, with confidence Solskjaer’s side could take advantage.

United and Manchester City have played 178 times in the history of both clubs. United has won 73 times, drawing 52 times and losing 53 times. The first match was played in 1891; a 5-1 victory for Newton Heath (United) in the FA Cup. United have not beaten City since the 2017/18 season, which incidentially came in this fixture, a 3-2 victory at the Etihad with Paul Pogba inspiring United with two quick goals coming from 2-0 down.

Last season, United lost both home and away to City; 3-1 at the Etihad and 2-0 at Old Trafford. This season, City are not as good as they once were and with problems in defence, it could be a match for United to take advantage. After beating Spurs on Wednesday evening, Solskjaer’s side should be up for the challenge of beating City. However, some will worry more about Liverpool winning the Premier League if this happens.

Manchester City 1-2 Manchester United

copyright: JW