Danny Higginbotham believes the injury absence of Manchester City stars Sergio Aguero and David Silva hands the derby day advantage to his former club Manchester United.
City travel to Old Trafford on Sunday two points ahead of United at the Premier League summit – something that led home boss Louis van Gaal to label Manuel Pellegrini’s team as “favourites” at his pre-match news conference.
Aguero and Silva suffered respective hamstring and ankle injuries while on international duty with Argentina and Spain earlier this month and are yet to feature since returning to Manchester.
While Higginbotham concedes Pellegrini has the stronger squad at his disposal, he feels the balance for Sunday’s showdown tips in United’s favour without City’s key attacking duo.
“If you’d ask me with both full squads I’d probably say Manchester City [were favourites], as much as it pains me to say,” he told Omnisport.
“But with Silva and Aguero out I would favour United definitely.”
Despite their impressive standing in the league, United’s performances this season have lacked consistency – Wednesday’s uninspiring 1-1 draw at CSKA Moscow in the Champions League serving as the latest example.
On the back of this and a chastening 3-0 loss at Arsenal before the international break, Higginbotham identifies the derby as a potentially pivotal moment in United’s campaign.
“Definitely, because the league has been quite interesting, they’ve done well but then went and got beat by Arsenal,” he added.
“They added to their own downfall in that game and then, after Everton [an impressive 3-0 win at Goodison Park], the game against CSKA I think was a carbon copy of the PSV away game [a 2-1 defeat].
“It’s just the consistency [they need] and having a settled team with players playing in their own position.”