- Oli Coulson
Who are the noisy neighbours now? – Manchester United vs Manchester City Preview
Four miles separate the two clubs, but who will win in the 186th match between Manchester City and Manchester United on Saturday, November 6? The Manchester Derby is on Sky Sports kicking off at 12.30 pm GMT.
Straight off Wednesday night's return to winning ways against Club Brugge in the Champions League, City travel to Old Trafford to take on cross-city enemies Manchester United. It's a fixture that requires little introduction to fans, red or blue. It is the game that the whole of Manchester (and Salford!) comes alive for, as the irrational hate sets in on both sides. The last meeting between these two was, like many of the recent fixtures between these two clubs, a disappointment for the Blues. United ran out 2-0 victors at the Etihad in March 2021, as City lost for the first time in 22 games.
Quite shockingly, of the 5 league fixtures between the clubs since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over as United manager, Guardiola has only managed to take all 3 points once; the first meeting of the two managers in April 2019 at Old Trafford, as City stormed their way to the Premier League title. The only other time City managed a point out of United in this run of 5 games was last season's fixture at Old Trafford - a drab 0-0 draw. City have had better success in two recent Carabao Cup semi-finals against their Salford based rivals: a 3-2 aggregate win in 19/20 and a 2-0 away win last season. Overall City have won 55 of the games in all competitions between the two, United 77 wins and 53 draws. United have scored 265 goals to City's 251 in the fixture. However, Wednesday's 4-1 win over Club Brugge was City getting back on track after a disappointing week before. Playing through the middle, Phil Foden opened the scoring with Brugge snatching an equaliser almost immediately after. However, in the second half, Riyad Mahrez continued his magnificent run of form in Europe grabbing City's second before substitutes Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus sealed the victory and City's place at the top of Group A toward the end. City largely dominated the game and could've made the scoreline much wider early on, showing just how up and down the season has been for them in front of goal.
This game is a bit of a must-win for City, despite Guardiola's comments noting how there's still a long way to go in the Premier League season. But a loss would only extend the gap between 3rd place City and Chelsea who sit top currently. He took ire at those criticising him over his comments that Club Brugge was the more important game after Wednesday's win.
"People took the piss for the fact I said today [City v Brugge] is more important than United - and it was. Now, the most important game ever is United"
However in Pep's pre-match conference earlier, he changed tone saying:
"Maybe the derby is the most important for some people, sentimental... but it's just one game".
Now, he's not wrong. After the weekend, regardless of where City are in the table, there is still another 27 matches left in the Premier League, but it's a long way away from the contempt ex-City boss Roberto Mancini held our cross-town rivals and their manager at the time in. Some City fans are irked by Guardiola's lack of interest in the derby. After all, we've seen him on the touchline getting angry, barking at the opposing manager, fourth official and whoever else against everyone from Cardiff City to Porto to Liverpool, but against United, he cuts a calmer figure. Maybe he genuinely looks down on Solskjaer, lets face it, don't we all? Maybe he feels it's a game that simply doesn't matter as much as since the last league win in April 2019, the result of the games has never affected the eventual destination of the Premier League trophy. After all, whatever happens tomorrow, United will still have been trophyless for the past 5 seasons and City will still be reigning champions.
The only fresh injury worry going into the weekend is that of Kyle Walker, who took a knock in the game against Club Brugge to his ankle/foot. Guardiola didn't rule him out of contention for derby day but Walker was subbed off in the 80th minute for Oleks Zinchenko. Whether this was because of the injury or not is unclear. Ferran Torres is still out with his metatarsal fracture and is far off a return still. The only other known absentee will be Aymeric Laporte who is suspended after his red card vs Crystal Palace last weekend, all but guaranteeing a return of the Stones/Dias partnership from last season.
Working on the basis that Walker isn't fit to start, Wednesday's City MOTM Joao Cancelo will play at RB and Oleks Zinchenko resumes his role at LB. Rodri surely continues at holding midfield, but the other 5 outfielders? It could be any number. However, I'm going to go with what I'd want to see which is a front 3 of Foden on the LW, Jesus on the right and De Bruyne down the middle. Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva behind them in midfield. Raheem Sterling's record against United leaves a lot to be desired and may be good to bring against tiring United legs in the second half, so I expect him to start from the bench despite his midweek return to the scoresheet. Predicted XI: Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko; Bernardo, Rodri, Gundogan; Foden, De Bruyne, Jesus.
Where to start with United's form? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must have been delighted on Tuesday when Tottenham hired Antonio Conte - a man increasingly linked to taking the United job over a worrying run of form which has seen them take only 4 points from their last 5 Premier League games, including the 5-0 demolition job Liverpool laid on United at Old Trafford a fortnight ago.
However, where the club have succeeded (other than counting on history for relevance), is in getting Cristiano Ronaldo to drag them to undeserved results in the Champions League, including a robbed draw on Tuesday night against Atalanta (as well as the robbed win 2 weeks prior against the Italian club). Kyle Walker remains the last goalkeeper of a Manchester club to keep a clean sheet against Atalanta, whilst 'Dave Saves' De Gea conceded 4 across the two matches against La Dea this season. Although despite this, United were impressive in their fresh 5 at the back shape they won 3-0 against Spurs last weekend. Ronaldo, whoever he is paired with is a worry for any defender, but it is in defence where Solskjaer's men are lacking. The decision by Txiki Begiristain to let Harry Maguire go to United looks better every game he plays. Summer signing Raphael Varane, obviously terrified after the embarrassing performances he put in for Real Madrid against City in 2020, is unavailable for the weekend. I would expect Bruno Fernandes to keep his ever-present place in United's XI, most likely with once City target but cleverly avoided Fred and Scott McTominay in midfield with him.
Predicted XI: De Gea; Lindelof, Bailly, Maguire; Wan-Bissaka, Fred, McTominay, Shaw; Fernandes, Ronaldo, Rashford
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt and Simon Bennett
Fourth official: Robert Jones
VAR: Darren England
Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan Oliver last took charge of a City fixture when they beat Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in September.
Written by @olicoulsxn Follow our Twitter account for reliable, live updates on all the latest news and everything Manchester City in real time.