The pressure cooker of the final matches of the Premier League is in full boil. The latest edition of the Manchester derby features several narratives of interest.
Manchester United vs Manchester City Preview and Prediction
The Citizens trip to their local rivals is the last time this season they’ll face a side in the top 6; only midtable Leicester and relegation threatened Burnley and Brighton remain after that. For most watching, this is the last logical place at which temporary league leaders Liverpool can realistically hope for Guardiola’s men to slip on their game in hand in the league table. Meanwhile, Manchester United, fresh off a 4-0 thumping away to Everton, face the significance of 4 must win games to have any chance of finishing in the top 4. But the romance for Solskjaer’s tenure has finally ended. Instead, his side face the pressure of avoiding a 7th defeat in 10 matches, and having to manage the mental fallout from such a poor run.
Fact of Interest:
- Draws are infrequent between these sides; the last 20 competitive matches between the two yielded only two draws, both goalless.
- While the results of this match often alternate with wins for either side, Man Utd’s last home league win was in April 2015, against a Man City coached by Manuel Pellegrini.
- Man Utd have won 10 of 16 home league games this season, having lost just once, back in August to Spurs. They’re currently enjoying a 14 match home unbeaten streak in Premier League competition since.
- Man City have won 11 of 16 away league games, the 2nd best away record in the league. Only Liverpool have lost fewer away matches thus far. Man City and Liverpool are both tied for the best away defence in the league, conceding just 10 goals. They’re currently enjoying a 4 match away win streak in Premier League competition.
- Man Utd are most dangerous in the final 15 minutes before halftime and fulltime, having scored 46% of the goals thus far this season in those two 15 minute periods.
- By contrast, the Citizens are most dangerous in the opening 15 minutes of each half, with 45% of their goals arriving in those two 15 minute periods.
- Romelu Lukaku has scored 5 goals in 15 appearances against Man City, but none have come while playing in a Man United shirt.
- Paul Pogba has scored 2 goals in 5 appearances against Man City, both coming in last seasons 3-2 away win at the Etihad.
- Anthony Martial has scored once in 6 appearances against Man City.
- Marcus Rashford has scored 2 goals in 7 appearances against Man City.
- Sergio Aguero has scored 9 goals in 13 appearances against Man United.
- Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahez have never scored against Man United.
Man Utd remain with doubts over the availability of Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly. Man City have a major concern over creative midfielder Kevin De Bruyne who remains out.
Expected Line-ups and Tactical Considerations:
During this recent lean spell of results, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tried to be versatile with his tactical approach, with 433, 4231 and 352 variations to try and manage more expansive opposition. It has been broadly unsuccessful, but the Norwegian may nonetheless persist with a strategy based on familiarity with the squad, rather than trying to make drastic experiments at such a crucial stage of the season. Solskjaer hasn’t yet faced Man City, but it should be reasonably expected that he’s likely to use a 4231 / 433 variant, especially while playing at Old Trafford. Despite form problems, the back five should remain largely intact from the team that travelled to Stamford Bridge – defensively, David De Gea is probable to feature with Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Ashley Young. The changes have rung in midfield, and it’s likely to continue with Pogba most likely joined by McTominay and Fred. Upfront, the most likely scenario is a repeat starting trio (Martial, Lukaku and Rashford) from the Everton matchup, which despite its tepid showing against Marco Silva’s team, still features the 3 most dangerous attacking outlets Man Utd have at their disposal.
Meanwhile, Guardiola continues to trust his 433 to deliver on the creativity and ruthless results that Man City have broadly managed to sustain. Some forced rotations from the weekend win over Spurs should revert back to normal. Hence expect in the backline for Ederson, Walker and Laporte to be rejoined by Mendy and Stones (with the latter having rejoined first team action after the Spurs match. should retain their slots. The impressive performance of Phil Foden in midfield in the same fixture may earn him a start alongside Gundogan and a returning David Silva. Upfront, Sterling, Aguero and Bernardo Silva should retain their slots for the derby.
Match Facts & Summary
|Head to Head||Man Utd||Man City|
|Current Season Record||Played 34, Won 19, Lost 8||Played 34, Won 28, Lost 4|
|Current Season Top Scorers||Pogba (13), Lukaku (12)||Aguero (19), Sterling (17)|
|Last 10 Competitive Matches||Man Utd 4 Wins, 2 Draws, Man City 4 Wins|
|Last 10 Competitive Matches at Old Trafford||Man Utd 4 Wins, 1 Draws, Man City 5 Wins|
|Last Season’s Result||Man Utd 1-2 Man City|
|Odds of Interest (as at 21 Apr)||Man Utd||Man City|
|Odds – Result (Draw = 3.88)||5.79||0.47|
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Old Trafford has proved a mixed bag of form for both Manchester clubs. Man Utd are still enjoying a good record at home this season, and the poor results in the last few matches have been sustained away from home, which should make Solskjaer reasonably hopeful of improved results. After all, it took mighty Barcelona to upset the recent upturn in home form, so the Red Devils are hardly an easy side to travel to.
That isn’t to undermine Man City, whose squad rotation, depth, talent and attacking versatility has proved sublime in this recent run. The Citizens have 25 wins out of 27 matches in all competitions since late December 2018. They concede very few goals, and only three sides – Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs – have managed to somehow keep their attack quiet over 90 minutes.
Man Utd have much to play for, but their defeat to Everton was a massive blow in a weekend where Arsenal and Spurs dropped points. Track position would have been a great asset, but Solskjaer’s men remain 3 points off the pace for top 4 and while the match against Chelsea represents a crucial six pointer, it is Arsenal and Spurs that are also equally critical to catch. The Red Devils may well improve their fighting spirit and put on a much better showing against Man City, but the reality is that this is very much the visitor’s win to lose. Man Utd’s midfield and defences will need to improve substantially in particular, but with their rivals ruthless in attack and proficient at scoring early to pile on the pressure, it’s hard to see past Man City doing just that and delivering a losing blow to Man Utd’s hopes in the top 4 race.
Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. View the latest EPL Betting Odds