Everything you need to know, Predicted XI – Manchester City vs Manchester United Preview
With the title run-in underway, it's time for Pep Guardiola's men to face off against Manchester United in the second Manchester derby of the season, which is upon us this weekend - Sunday 6th March, live on Sky Sports in the UK. Kick-off at 16:30 (GMT).
Let's start with the worst bit, shall we? Ruben Dias is out with a hamstring injury he picked up midweek with Guardiola estimating it would be a 4-6 week layoff. To add to it, Nathan Ake is also out with an injury, after a bad fall during the same game, however, we don't know how long for. Cole Palmer is yet to return to training after an injury that's kept him out for most of 2022 so far and Zack Steffen is still in recovery after a shoulder injury. Aside from that, everyone else is available, meaning that we should see John Stones and Aymeric Laporte rekindle their partnership. Interestingly, the last time City beat United at the Etihad in November 2018, those two were the starting pair in central defence. When called upon, both always deliver.
You'd expect Walker and Cancelo to take up the full-back positions, with Rodri at holding midfield. Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva should make up the rest of the midfield with a frontline of Sterling, Foden and Mahrez. Ederson in goal. The absence of Mahrez (City's top scorer this season) from the starting XI has been noted, but now is the time for him to return. Sterling's record vs the new noisy neighbours leaves a lot to be desired but his ability to simply never stop makes him a shoo-in for me. As for Foden, play the lad who the game means the most to. Time for a derby goal Phil our mate.
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo; Sterling, Foden, Mahrez.
League position: 1st
Top scorer: Mahrez (19)
Previous result: W 0-2 Peterborough United (A)
Even considering the more recent wins over Everton in the league and Peterborough in the Cup, City have struggled for form for a few games now – they haven't exactly been making life easy for themselves with Bernardo moving more toward a false 9 position being highlighted as a potential reason. There are things to enjoy though, Phil Foden put in a quarterback-like performance in central midfield against Peterborough, creating a much-needed goal for Jack Grealish. Players have reason to be confident coming into the derby clash, and frankly, if they can't get fired up and raise their game for a game like this, then why bother in the first place?
City and United meeting is always a tense affair, but add in the fact that this weekend's clash is a potential title decider, where even if United take the 3 points, they still lose, pressure is on the Blues to continue their quest for their fourth Premier League crown in five seasons.
This is also United interim manager Ralf Rangnick's first experience of the clash of these clubs, and the City boss praised Rangnick as the 'father of the pressing' in his pre-match conference. He went on to talk about Rangnick's influence: 'Liverpool and Southampton and Jesse Marsch with Leeds, a little bit with Tuchel', a man whose methods Guardiola clearly has time for and no doubt will have analysed the best ways to beat a United side that City have failed to conquer on home soil completely since November 2018, where City ran out 3-1 victors.
City played some of their best football in the reverse fixture this season, as they sealed a 2-0 win in the first half and proceeded to dominate and do all but score in the second. United looked hapless, and despite a change of manager for our 'friends' in Salford, they're still no closer to winning a trophy. City will hope for more of the same here. With Liverpool so close on their tails after City dropped points to Southampton and that horrific loss to Spurs, staying on track and picking off each league game as it comes, fighting for the three points is imperative.
Guardiola once again highlighted his opinion on the perceived importance of the derby in his pre-match presser. He came under criticism from fans and media alike at the reverse fixture for saying the midweek game prior vs Club Brugge in the Champions League was more important. Whilst he hasn't tried to claim anything similar about this week's FA Cup tie vs Peterborough he did offer the comment:
"It's a special game for history... I don't come here to win vs United. I will be satisfied to fight and win the Premier League. If they win, congratulations."
Ever the sarcastic man is our Pep. But his point, as usual, is a fair one. This is one of 11 games City (probably) have to win to guarantee the Premier League title staying at the Etihad for another year. After all, whatever happens this weekend, United will still have been trophyless for the past 5 seasons and City will still be reigning champions.
League position: 4th
Top scorer: Ronaldo (15)
Previous result: D 0-0 Watford (H)
In short, they're not very good. A run of form marked by inconsistency, an inability to deliver when it matters without the help of referees or truly dreadful defending. However, it is still a derby, it is still Manchester United and they pose threats. Their entire season, both under Solskjaer and Rangnick has been defined by late goals, mostly going their way. They pretty much always find a way to scurry a way out of losing, despite still having lost 6 games in the league. Barring a miracle in the Champions League, they will finish this season trophyless for the 5th year running, thanks to Middlesbrough dumping them out of the FA Cup on penalties last month.
Their re-signing Ronaldo project has largely failed, with the egotistic maniac set to depart just as quickly as he arrived come the summer, and no Cristiano, we don't want you now. For a club that's spent as much as City in recent years, you would have expected something to show for it, even if they finish fourth is that really good enough?
Drawing to teams like Watford at home, Burnley digging out a point whilst they scrap to avoid relegation, putting all their faith in Anthony Elanga as the senior players in that dressing room like captain Maguire, Ronaldo and Rashford continue allegedly pointing fingers in the press, all whilst the executives are running around Europe with a begging bowl hoping a manager will take on the doomed project. Rangnick said that United need to find their own Guardiola in his pre-match press conference. Lads, you'd do well to find your own Sam Allardyce.
However, being more serious, United do pose a threat; pace in behind, long balls over the top, counters that can cut through elite sides. City should be wary, and with that recent loss to Spurs still burning fresh in their mind as Kane and Son ran riot, Guardiola and the XI he selects must perform better, they must control the game. Possession is the best form of offence and defence, so let's be thankful United aren't very good with or without it. United are inherently beatable, and what would be a better way to fully kick off the title run-in than City finally, putting United in the ground with a big scoreline?
Head to Head
A shared history that's divided (Greater) Manchester for over 140 years when the local club of St Marks Church in Gorton (City) faced off and lost 3-0 against the Newton Heath Railwaymen (United). A list of shared players from Denis Law to Carlos Tevez, Brian Kidd manned the sidelines as an assistant coach under Ferguson and every City boss in the past decade. A fixture once dreaded by City, now dreaded by United, even if their recent record at the Etihad (3W 2L) suggests some confidence. A win for United here would be a great confidence boost for the faltering historians, a win for City ignites a charge to the title which could lead to City matching United's famous treble of 1999. And this is before we even think what this means to the fans, on both sides.
Referee - Michael Oliver
Assistants - Simon Bennett & Scott Ledger
Fourth Official - Andy Madley
VAR - Stuart Attwell
Assistant VAR - Darren Cann