Manchester United aim to extend their one-point advantage over local rivals Manchester City in the race for third when the two sides meet at Old Trafford on Sunday (16:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
United come into the derby on the back of five consecutive league victories and just one defeat in their last 10 league matches. They are third in the Premier League table, with 62 points from 18 wins, eight draws and five defeats.
Louis Van Gaal’s side recorded a comfortable 3-1 victory at home to Aston Villa last weekend. They started on the front foot and had already called the away goalkeeper Brad Guzan into action on a number of occasions prior to Ander Herrera’s opener just before half-time. Second-half strikes from Wayne Rooney and Herrera sealed the three points.
It was the latest confident and assured performance from a side who have really started to find their stride in recent weeks. Van Gaal seems to have settled on a regular shape and found roles in which players like Herrera, Juan Mata and previously maligned figures such as Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini are capable of thriving.
It would have seemed unthinkable just a couple of months ago that Man Utd would come into the derby ahead of their neighbours. But Man City’s serious downturn in form combined with United’s recent upturn has seen Van Gaal’s side put themselves in a good position to not only finish in the top four but to possibly pip their local rivals to third place in the table.
Van Gaal will definitely be without the suspended Jonny Evans, while Chris Smalling (illness) and Robin Van Persie (match fitness) are injury doubts.
Man City make the short trip to Old Trafford on the back of three defeats in their last five league matches and five in their last seven in all competitions. They lie fourth in the Premier League table, with 61 points from 18 wins, seven draws and six defeats.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side fell to a 2-1 defeat away to Crystal Palace on Monday. They dominated both possession and the shot count but failed to take advantage of the few good-quality chances they were able to create. Palace scored from two set-piece situations either side of half-time, rendering Yaya Toure’s late goal obsolete in the final reckoning.
It was the latest disappointment for a Man City side who have appeared starved of inspiration at times this season. They still take a greater share (65.1%) of the total shots in their matches than any other side in the division, but they are failing to turn that superiority into goals as regularly as they were able to during last season’s title-winning campaign.
The club focused on putting together a more well-rounded first-team squad last summer and their decision not to pursue genuine top-line talent does now look to have been a mistake. While they do still mete out the odd thrashing when on song, their average goal difference per match has dropped from 1.71 last season to 1.06 during the current campaign.
Pellegrini has no confirmed injury absentees. Wilfried Bony (ankle) has a solid chance of making the squad after missing the defeat to Palace.
Man Utd v Man City Betting Tips Verdict
City have triumphed in each of the last four league meetings between these sides, including a 1-0 victory at the Etihad last November and a commanding 3-0 victory at Old Trafford last season. The last six league meetings at United’s home have yielded three wins for each side. There have been just two draws in the last 25 meetings in all competitions.
Man Utd have beaten both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur within the last month, and generally have a very good record against top six sides so far this season, having won four, drawn two and lost just one (to City) of their seven such games to date. They still have Arsenal and Chelsea to come, so would ideally like to take all three points on Sunday.
City do have a slightly easier run-in than United on paper – after the derby, they will face six teams with a current average league position of 11th, in comparison to 10th for United’s opponents. While Pellegrini would love his side to snap their three-match losing streak on their travels, a draw would likely be considered an acceptable result in the circumstances.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 5/2 with BetVictor.
- Sergio Aguero (pictured above) loves playing against City’s local rivals. The Argentinian striker has scored in five of his previous seven appearances against United, including four goals in his last three. His last league goal came nearly two months ago but he was unlucky in striking the post against Palace. Back Aguero to score at anytime @ best odds of 9/5 with Ladbrokes.