Two of the Premier League’s top teams clash at Old Trafford on Sunday, as Manchester United host arch-rivals Manchester City in the Manchester derby.
What was once regarded as a local skirmish now has a national effect on the top of the Premier League table.
Both clubs look like genuine title contenders this season and this game could be a key one, especially for the home side, who trail their neighbours by just two points in the table.
Both teams produced impressive performances last time out in the Premier League, before both produced less effective displays in the midweek Champions League games.
United broke their recent Goodison Park hoodoo by defeating Everton 3-0 last Saturday, while rather more expectedly City hammered Bournemouth 5-1 at the Etihad Stadium.
United have found it difficult at Everton in recent years and have emerged from Goodison Park with nothing more than a dent in their ego in the past two seasons. However, on Saturday they produced what has been described by many as their best display under Louis van Gaal.
Everton produce a surprisingly subdued performance, which may have had something to do with the crowd being slightly subdued because of the sad news of Toffees legend Howard Kendall passing away early that morning.
Whatever the reason for Everton’s sluggish display the Red Devils took full advantage of the Toffees inertia and produced a superb display of football, all revolving around highly-underrated Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera.
The former-Athletic Bilbao midfielder is not always first on the team sheet, but showed against Everton just why he should be. The little Spaniard looks to have finally established himself in the United team.
While the ease of United’s victory on Merseyside was a surprise, City’s mauling of Premier League new boys Bournemouth came as little surprise. City may have been without their star player players David Silva and Sergio Aguero, but Raheem Sterling stepped-up to score a hat-trick and Wilfried Bony also scored a brace.
Aguero and Silva were hardly missed as the Citizens made the most of the Cherries generous defending to remain top of the Premier League pile.
One key to this Sunday’s Manchester derby could be the absence of the aforementioned Aguero and Silva. If City had everybody fit then they would highly fancy their chances of recording a win on enemy soil.
However, not only have Silva and Aguero been missing, but full-back Aleksandar Kolarov and centre-back Vincent Kompany have just returned from injury. The pair played key roles in City’s good start to the campaign.
City not having everybody fit and firing may just put this game in the balance. City still has quality in the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Yaya Toure and Raheem Sterling, but any team would miss influential players like Aguero and Silva.
Both teams will head into this game confident of a vital victory, despite disappointing displays in Europe midweek.
United drew 1-1 with CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, but the confidence they will have taken from the win at Everton last weekend is likely to take them into this game in good spirits.
City secured a last-gasp 2-1 win over Sevilla in the same competition with Kevin De Bruyne grabbing a stoppage-time winner for the Citizens.
The Premier League is a different ball game to the Champions League though and both teams have looked confident in the English top-flight of late.
At times United have grinded out results this season, yet they are still right in the race for the Premier League title. Successful United teams of the past had the ability to grind out results and that is why they won so much silverware.
There is already signs of that developing in the current Red Devils ranks. If boss Van Gaal can master that then he could be very successful at Old Trafford. Most successful teams in the history of the game have had the ability to win while not playing at their best.
City has produced rather more convincing displays this season, apart from a two-game blip when they were defeated by West Ham and Tottenham. They have bounced back from those defeats with heavy wins.
Manchester United head into this game as narrow favourites for victory at odds of 8/5, while City are odds of 9/5 and the draw is odds of 5/2.
This game is a difficult one to predict. The Manchester derby has produced some really entertaining games in recent years and with the players on display this game should produce yet another goal fest. It remains top been seen who will come out on top though.
Who will come out on top in the Manchester derby?
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