It’s been a while since both sides headed into a Manchester derby so close to one another in the Premier League standings, and this could give the high-profile clash a new dimension. And with Manchester City missing quite a few star players, their rivals will see the match as a perfect opportunity to leapfrog Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
Manchester United have done well to be mere two points off the top of the standings after nine matches, but the reality is they still don’t look like genuine title contenders. Louis van Gaal’s side have not exactly been too convincing, with even last week’s 3-0 triumph at Goodison achieved with a big help from Everton players and definitely not a result of their own impressive performance. And while the Red Devils did beat out-of-sorts Liverpool early into the season, they were completely outclassed by Arsenal at the Emirates, so it is not as if they can go into the derby game confident of a win. Inconsistency remains a major issue as Manchester United has yet to string several good performances in a row, and club icon Paul Scholes had every right to criticise the players for their latest displays. The good news is that this team appear to have learned how to grind out results and with Manchester City missing key men in Silva and Aguero, they should be able to record a positive result. Nevertheless, I seriously doubt the hosts have what it takes to bring down the current Premier League leaders. There have been no fresh selection worries for the manager, although Ashley Young, Paddy McNair and Luke Shaw remain in the treatment room.
Unlike their neighbours, Manchester City do look like the team capable of beating anyone on their day, and they either utilize their attacking potential to the full, bagging five or six goals per game, or completely disappoint and suffer defeats to the likes of West Ham and Spurs. The Citizens appear to have recovered from the shocking run of results that saw them lose three of four matches, with successive wins over Borussia M’Gladbach, Newcastle United, AFC Bournemouth and Sevilla seriously improving the atmosphere in the squad. It is important to note that both Champions League wins were achieved in the dying moments of the games, which could suggest that the players believe in their abilities and keep trying until the final whistle. But, the Sevilla game showed that key men David Silva and Sergio Aguero are being sorely missed, and with Vincent Kompany also lacking match fitness, this is definitely not the right time to be facing Manchester United. There are more important players on the injury list, with Fabian Delph, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy sidelined as well.
Manchester United have yet to show they have what it takes to win these kinds of matches, but the absence of Aguero and Silva should be enough to prevent Manchester City from winning at Old Trafford. Therefore, we fully expect the two sides to cancel each other out, and draw does seem the most likely outcome.
Best Odds: 5/2