Man Utd host Man City at Old Trafford on Saturday evening. The hosts are one point ahead of Pep Guardiola’s side despite having played one match less and a win would arguably take The Red Devils into the title race. After their disappointing elimination from the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking for his usual run of wins as soon as pressure builds on him.
Man Utd Form
Man Utd’s form of late has been unpredictable. They have won five of their last seven matches but the two defeats were 3-1 at home to PSG and 3-2 away at RB Leipzig. Solskjaer had come under scrutiny after a 2-1 loss away to Istanbul Basaksehir but then delivered four consecutive wins.
A hallmark of their recent form has been falling behind before rousing second half comebacks. They trailed at Everton but won 3-1. They trailed 2-0 at Southampton but won 3-2 and then were 1-0 behind at West Ham before scoring three goals in 13 minutes to win 3-1.
Their last match saw them 3-0 down at RB Leipzig before eventually losing 3-2 and ending third in the Champions League group. They will now drop into the Europa League.
Man Utd Team News
Anthony Martial and Edison Cavani both missed the last match after muscle injuries and neither is expected to be fit for this match. Solskjaer is likely to use Marcus Rashord and Mason Greenwood from the start but that doesn’t leave much on the bench besides Odion Ighalo.
Luke Shaw made a surprise comeback against RB Leipzig and looked rusty but could start again in this match. Fred returns from suspension and is expected to play alongside Scott McTominay in a combative midfield which could mean Paul Pogba is left on the bench once again.
Man Utd Motivation
United will play to win this game but they are absolutely certain to cede possession and look to play on the counter attack. This has worked very well against Man City and many other big teams (PSG, Chelsea) since Solskjaer took over.
Expect Man Utd to be physical, to defend in numbers and then to hit Marcus Rashford’s pace early and often. Paul Pogba could be a good impact substitute option later in the game or a key passer from deep to lead counters if he starts.
Solskjaer could play either a 5-3-2 in the defensive phase or he could switch to a midfield diamond to allow him to play both his usual combative midfielders as well as Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in the same XI.
Man City Form
Man City’s form is a little strange. They have lost just two of their 18 matches in all competitions this season but those defeats still ring in their ears. A 5-2 loss at home to Leicester and a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham both came against opponents playing on the counter attack as Man Utd will do.
City responded to that Spurs defeat with a 5-0 thrashing of Burnley and a 2-0 home win against Fulham. Guardiola’s team may have breezed through their Champions League group but they two losses and three draws in their last nine league matches so it is difficult to gauge where they are at.
Man City Team News
City have almost a full strength side to choose from with Eric Garcia the only real doubt after going off injured against Marseille. Sergio Aguero made his injury return in the last match and scored just 10 minutes after coming on, but there is no chance that he starts this match.
Guardiola has plenty of decisions to make, particularly over which of Benjamin Mendy, Joao Cancelo and Nathan Ake play at left back and whether he uses Gabriel Jesus or Ferran Torres up front.
Man City Motivation
City will play their usual way – look to dominate possession and impose themselves on the opposition. The arrival of Ruben Dias has seen City look much more secure defensively but Guardiola may still select his side with the threat of Man Utd’s counter attacks in mind. That could mean playing both Rodri and Fernandinho or using a more defensively secure left back in Ake or Aymeric Laporte (with John Stones partnering Ruben Dias in that case).
Man Utd have lost 2 of their last 3 matches in all competitions
Man Utd have won 4 PL matches in a row
Man Utd have scored 2 or more goals in their last 5 matches
Man Utd have conceded 9 goals in their last 4 matches
Man City have won lost 2 and drawn 3 of their last 9 PL matches (4W)
Man City have kept 3 clean sheets in their last 5 PL matches
City have won 1 of their last 4 away PL matches (D2, L1)
City have scored just 3 goals in their last 4 away PL matches
Man City have kept 5 clean sheets in a row in all competitions
This game is almost too close to call. Solskjaer pulling a rabbit out of the hat with a victory would be no surprise whilst City could also comfortably win this match in their improved defensive form. A draw looks the best value but the odds on offer for Man Utd to win are very tempting.