AUTHOR: Lee Duffy
As the first Manchester Derby of the season approaches, you could argue that its already ‘must win ‘ time for Manchester United. Their neighbours City are as noisy as they’ve ever been, winning 14 of their 15 games so far this season. Pep Guardiola’s side are also looking to set a new Premier League record for most consecutive league victories, a record that is held by the Arsenal team of 2001/02.
As for the Red side of Manchester, an impressive 3-1 win away to Arsenal at the weekend has kept the pressure on the league leaders, but this is the game that United have to win if they are to stand any chance of catching their neighbours. With two defeats already this season, compared to City’s unbeaten start, United cannot afford another slip up, especially to their fierce rivals. If City do manage to come away from Old Trafford with all three points, it will mean that Man City will be 11 points clear with just 16 games gone, the biggest gap between 1st and 2nd at this stage of a season in Premier League history.
After the constant success of Manchester United throughout the Sir Alex Ferguson era, and even as city became stronger in recent years, you could argue that this is the strongest both sides have been heading into the Derby, with the two Manchester Clubs threatening to break away from the chasing pack.
Manchester United will be without their star man Paul Pogba for the visit of City, after picking up a red card against Arsenal at the weekend. Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick are all expected to miss out through injury, whilst Zlatan Ibrahmovic is in contention to return to the squad as he nurses his way back to full fitness.
As for City, no fresh injury concerns after navigating their way past a tricky game against West Ham on Sunday. Benjamin Mendy remains out with a cruciate ligament injury, with makeshift left back Fabian Delph filling in superbly in his absence. City have managed to keep all of their star men fit this season, which has helped them massively to be where they are at this stage of the campaign.
A win for City on Sunday will make them all but uncatchable, it will give them confidence and Man United heads might drop. But a win for United will change the league picture massively. The lead cut to five points, City’s unbeaten league run would be ended and Pep Guardiola might be forced to take a look over his shoulder at the teams gaining on his side.
No side has scored more goals in the last 10 minutes of games this season than United (11), compared to City’s 9. But no side has won more points in the last 10 minutes of games than City (9). There will surely be late drama at Old Trafford on Sunday when the top two in the league go head to head.
Manchester United V Manchester City- Sunday, 4:15pm, Sky Sports