The time has come once again where the Manchester derby takes place and all attention is on either Old Trafford or the Etihad.

In the last few years, it feels the importance of the derby has dwindled slightly, purely because neither team has been in the position to genuinely challenge for the title, and so there are no huge implications of the game’s result.

However, this season, that has changed. With José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola a season deep into taking over their new clubs, the Premier League looks set to be heading to Manchester come May next year.

And so this first Manchester derby of the season carries huge importance with it. Manchester City have been rampant and are on a 13-game unbeaten run, while Manchester United’s title hopes significantly improved after showing a strong performance in beating Arsenal at the Emirates.


Manchester United can exploit Guardiola’s team in the air. Even without Paul Pogba, who will be suspended after being sent off against Arsenal, the Red Devils have a team that has aerial prowess.

Against Southampton, City struggled to handle set-pieces, in particular, corners. There were a string of three chances in which Southampton should have scored from in the penalty area. The Citizens were dominated in the air and looked on the rocks when Mauricio Pellegrino identified their weakness.

The Saints might not have taken full advantage of their defensive inability in the air, but Man United will be more clinical in front of goals, as shown against CSKA Moscow in the space of two minutes. Manchester United to score a header is .

Marouane Fellaini and Nemanja Matić should return to the matchday squad after picking up injuries in recent weeks, with Zlatan Ibrahimović purposefully rested for this reason.

Whether the football they play is deemed ‘attractive’ or not is unimportant in a fixture like this – it is all about the three points in the Manchester derby.

Guardiola will feel that he can get the better of Manchester United by targeting Victor Lindelöf, a player that has struggled to adapt to Premier League football so far. While he has certainly improved in weeks, this will be the Swede’s biggest game since arriving in England, and one that he will find the utmost pressure asserted on him in.

The Spanish coach also has the midfield advantage in terms of quality. He is likely to flood the midfield with Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva (if passed fit) and Fernandinho. With the midfield overload, United could be caught out with sheer numbers and find themselves on the back foot for large parts of the game.

It is important for United to nullify the source of City’s attack, which is the creator, De Bruyne. If they can get to him – most likely to be Ander Herrera’s job – then there is a good chance of limiting City’s waves of attacks.

Importance of the title race

For both teams, this could be a huge stepping stone and shift in this year’s Premier League title race. If City are to win, then they will be a mighty 11 points ahead of their second-place rivals, which is a point margin that has never been clawed back before.

But, if the Red Devils can make up ground and claim the three points, currently priced at , five measly points in front does not look daunting at all, especially given the fixture congestion over the Christmas period. A couple draws for Manchester City and United are back on level terms.

Mourinho has been under the cosh recently for his ‘big game’ management style, but he silenced those critics in a fantastic 3-1 away win at the Emirates against Arsenal last weekend.

Manchester United have equalled a club record of 40 games unbeaten at home in all competitions with their win against CSKA Moscow in midweek, and so they will be feeling confident that they can produce the necessary performance to beat the team that is yet to be beaten in the league.

City, too, will be in high spirits, given their form in the Premier League, which sets this tie up perfectly for a match and rivalry that is going to be won on fine margins but full of intensity.

Do not be mistaken, this is the biggest game of the season so far and will have a long-term effect on the two clubs’ seasons moving forward.

It is United v City, Mourinho v Guardiola, first v second, and going to be one hell of a rollercoaster.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

Join the discussion