Manchester United have been so impressive of late that they head into the local derby one point clear of the bitter rivals and in much better spirits having won five Premier League games on the trot. Meanwhile, the Citizens are very low on confidence after losing five of last seven matches in all competitions, and they desperately need a good result at Old Trafford to kick-start their season.
Louis van Gaal was always adamant that he would help Manchester United return to old glory days, but many people started doubting the Dutch manager following the disappointing start to the season. In all fairness, the former Netherlands boss did take longer than planned to get his side playing to the potential, but once things finally fell into place, it became clear just how much this team can achieve. It was the return of Michael Carrick and Juan Mata to the starting line-up that helped the Red Devils kick-start their season, while Van Gaal’s brave decision to drop record signing Angel Di Maria also played a part. Five successive Premier League victories that included impressive triumphs over Tottenham and Liverpool are enough to suggest Manchester United are back in business and the players should have even more confidence now that they have all but secured Champions League qualification. Having finally leapfrogged local rivals Manchester City, the Red Devils will want to finish the season above their neighbours and they will have a perfect opportunity on Sunday to create a four-point advantage over Manuel Pellegrini’s side. It remains to be seen when Angel Di Maria will be recalled to the side, but Van Gaal clearly has no reason to change the team that have done brilliantly of late.
This season has quickly turned into a major disappointment for Manchester City, and it is now clear the club will end the current campaign without a single trophy. Some shocking performances after the turn of the year not only effectively ended City’s title bid in the Premier League, but also placed a lot of pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini, who could easily lose his job at the end of the season. The Citizens are now going through one of the roughest patches in recent years, having suffered incredible five defeats in last seven matches in all competitions. And while not too many people expected them to pip Barcelona to a place in the Champions League quarter-finals, defeats to Burnley and Crystal Palace must have acted as major blows to the player’s confidence. Manchester City still hold a seven-point advantage over Liverpool and Tottenham in the race for a top 4 finish, but even the Champions League qualification will be in danger if they lose at Old Trafford. And with so much pressure currently on the team that are completely out of confidence, it would take something special from the Citizens to avoid losing to their arch rivals. Manuel Pellegrini has no fresh injury worries at the moment, and he is expected to sacrifice striker Edin Dzeko in favour of introducing another midfielder to the starting line-up.
Manchester United are clearly playing their best football of the season and it is their five-man midfield that should play a key role in helping the team record another impressive victory. Manchester City have now lost four successive matches on the road and the barren run looks unlikely to end at Old Trafford.
Verdict: Home win Manchester United (1)
Best Odds: 13/8