Saturday 9 December 2017

Derby day preview: United v City

The stage is set, the world will be watching and United are ready for Sunday's 175th Manchester derby - the biggest and most important for years.

Pep Guardiola's unbeaten leaders have dropped only two points all season and head to Old Trafford with a perfect away record. United, meanwhile, are on a 100% winning run at home and set a new joint-record of 40 games unbeaten at OT in midweek. Something has to give. 

It's too early to call this cross-town, top of the table clash a true title decider but it will certainly have a huge impact on the dynamic of the season. City have been in blistering form to open up an eight-point advantage, but cracks have started to show and they've needed late winners to get past Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham recently. They suffered a first defeat of the season - albeit in a dead-rubber - away in Ukraine in the Champions League on Wednesday. In-form United head into the game on the back of four successive wins and a 3-1 victory at the Emirates last time out. City are unbeaten and flying, but we certainly possess the quality and firepower to be the side to finally stop the juggernaut. A City win would put them eleven clear - surely an insurmountable hurdle even at this stage of the season. A United win, though, and that gap is five - that would surely affect the visitors mentally and blow the race wide open. It's perfectly poised and promises to be fascinating for the neutral. 

The team news ahead of the game is intriguing. Paul Pogba's suspension comes as a massive blow for United as the Frenchman dictates the game and makes a huge difference to our play. Eric Bailly and Michael Carrick remain sidelined, but Nemanja Matic will start despite carrying an injury. Zlatan is set to be involved, Phil Jones is available again and Marouane Fellaini could also feature. Unsurprisingly, David Silva is fit for City and will start, despite his manager's attempted mind games. A late decision will be made over the fitness of captain Vincent Kompany, but fellow defenders John Stones and Benjamin Mendy are out. 

Jose said how this was a match between two top sides who have significantly improved from last season: "For me, it's one more big match against one of the best teams in the country. We are a better team than last season and I think City is better also than last season.
"I don't need to know that a derby is something special for the fans and the people of the city. For us it is just another three points but honestly for the people born in this city and feeling the colours, it's a good positive rivalry and a special match."

The two sides meet competitively for the first time sine the tragic events in May in which 22 people were killed at the Manchester Arena. Both clubs put differences asides in the aftermath of the attack, and Jose added:
"These are the beautiful things that football can do, and we could feel in that time that the clubs were willing to work together and help the city. It would be really said if that was not the case. Now this is an important football match." 

This is a match where points, league position and form goes out the window - it's about pride, passion and playing for the shirt. Let's go out there and stand up to be counted. Our season could depend on it.... Come on United!!

Form guide: United W L W W W W City W W W W W L 
Match odds: United 12/5 Draw 5/2 City 6/5 
Referee: Michael Oliver 

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