Manchester United make the short trip to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon to take on Manchester City. This will be the 187th time the two sides have faced off against each other.
Last season, the Red Devils ran out 0-2 winners at the Etihad Stadium, thanks to a Bruno Fernandes penalty and a rare goal from Luke Shaw.
Manchester United were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at Old Trafford last Saturday against Watford. Despite putting the Hornets under a lot of pressure throughout the game, and creating some good chances, United simply could not score. This is something that has become frustrating of late and has cost them some important points.
Before the Watford game last weekend, United drew with Atletico Madrid away from home thanks to an equaliser from Anthony Elanga. The impressive second-half goal from the 19-year-old was the first of his career in the Champions League.
United had previously won two in a row in the Premier League, beating Brighton 2-0 at Old Trafford, and a trip to Elland Road saw Ralf Rangnick’s side comprehensively beat Leeds United 2-4.Embed from Getty Images
Manchester City’s last game came on Tuesday evening, in the FA Cup. They knocked Championship side Peterborough United out of the competition 0-2, thanks to goals from Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish.
In the league, City ran out 0-1 winners away to Everton last weekend but were beaten by Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur in their last home game. A dramatic late winner from England captain Harry Kane meant Tottenham returned to London with all three points.
Manchester United will be boosted by the return on Scotland international Scott McTominay ahead of Sunday’s game. The midfielder missed United’s last two fixtures through illness, but he returned to training this week and could be available.
Edinson Cavani may also return to the squad, which Rangnick confirmed in his press conference on Friday. The Uruguay striker hasn’t featured since United’s 1-1 draw away to Burnley at the start of last month.Embed from Getty Images
Rangnick also suggested there could be some other players missing this weekend, although he did not specify who. Speaking in his press conference, Rangnick explained there are “still some question marks over other players”. United fans will most likely have to wait until Sunday to see who the German was talking about.
Cristiano Ronaldo was not spotted with the rest of the team yesterday evening, as the United squad arrived at the hotel to prepare for the Derby.
Manchester City will be without key centre-back Ruben Dias for United’s visit to the Etihad. Manager Pep Guardiola confirmed Dias will miss the game following an injury he picked up in the FA Cup. Nathan Ake is also set to miss the game through injury.
Cole Palmer will also miss the Manchester Derby, and goalkeeper Zack Steffen is still overcoming a back injury.
Ones to Watch
Anthony Elanga has been in excellent form for Manchester United of late. As well as his goal in Madrid, he scored against Leeds a couple of weeks ago, getting United’s fourth of the game with a well-taken finish. He started the game against Watford last Saturday and put in a good performance across the 90 minutes.
Elanga’s rise under Ralf Rangnick has been a great thing to watch for United fans. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjær, he was on the fringes of the first team, making a few appearances here and there. However, under Rangnick, he has become an established member of the squad, regularly starting games, and scoring goals. He is certainly a player the German is impressed with and is an exciting player who could become key for United in the years to come.
Jadon Sancho is another player to keep an eye out for on Sunday, as he returns to his former club. Both Sancho and Elanga were nominated for United’s February player of the month award, alongside Raphael Varane, and either player would deserve the award.
Sancho played arguably his best football for so far for United in February, and his electric performances showed why he is one of the world’s young best wingers. With a big month coming up for United, he could be one of the key players when it comes to picking up points and winning games.Embed from Getty Images
One of Manchester City’s biggest threats is Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian international has had a strong season so far. He has scored 19 times and assisted seven in all competitions for City. He is also dangerous when taking on a defender one-on-one. If he starts, he is certainly someone United should be wary of on the right-hand side of City’s attack.
David de Gea;
Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles;
Scott McTominay, Fred, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes;
Anthony Elanga, Jadon Sancho.
An Important Month
The Manchester derby marks the start of a big run of fixtures for Manchester United this March. The weekend after the trip to the Etihad, the Red Devils host Tottenham Hotspur in a big game as the race for a top-four finish goes on.
Atletico Madrid then travel to Manchester for the Champions League Last 16 second leg; the tie is finely poised at 1-1 on aggregate, so it is all to play for at Old Trafford. However, United’s trip to Anfield at the end of the month has been postponed, due to Liverpool’s involvement in the FA Cup. A new date will be announced in due course.
With three important games coming up in March, United must take their chances in front of goal and pick up wins in some of the biggest games yet this season.