There will be an air of anti-climax about the Manchester derby on Monday with United’s 15-point gap all but ensuring the title is theirs.
In what should be the match of the season just eight games out from its close, United’s vice-like grip on the title threatens to quash any sense of theatre on Sunday, nearly a year after City completed one of the great sporting heists to snatch the title from their bitter rivals.
City manager Roberto Mancini will fuel his side with belief after a largely disappointing campaign that has so far included a meek exit from the group stages of the Champions League and a chequered pursuit of their nearest neighbours.
The sides have split their past four meetings with two wins each – City’s 6-1 victory at Old Trafford and United’s last-gasp 3-2 win at Etihad Stadium in December particularly memorable.
Front men Robin Van Persie and Sergio Aguero could hold the key for both sides after lean goal scoring runs of late.
Van Persie has been a revelation since signing for United in the post season with 23 goals in all competitions but has not found the back of the net in his past nine matches.
Meanwhile, Aguero, who has a penchant for scoring crucial goals, has failed to scale the heights that saw him net 30 goals in all competitions last season.
The Argentine has just 13 this campaign and only four in his past 15 Premier League games.
David Silva (knock), Samir Nasri (ankle) and Micah Richards (knee) are all racing the clock to face United while defenders Matija Nastasic and Maicon are no chance.
Sir Alex Ferguson expects trio Nemanja Vidic (back), Johnny Evans (hamstring) and Wayne Rooney to be available but right-back Rafael (groin) and Darren Fletcher (bowel) will miss.