The first Manchester derby of the season will be on Sunday afternoon, and it features Manchester City in fragile form compared to the resurgent Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal.
The Red Devils are coming off the back of a deserved draw against Premier League leaders Chelsea, which saw them stretch their unbeaten run to four games, while their “noisy neighbours” suffered a 2-0 home defeat to an under-strength Newcastle in the Capital One Cup, a 2-2 draw to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, and a 2-1 defeat to West Ham United in the Premier League.
Due to home advantage, Manchester City are the bookies favourite, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side have only picked up three wins from seven games played at the Etihad this season, keeping just one clean sheet – against Championship side Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup third round.
They don’t boast the best home record to United in the league either, losing five time and drawing once in their past 10 meetings on home soil. Louis Van Gaal’s side also have impetus at the moment. They are becoming harder to beat – losing only in their last eight league games – and are popping up with important late goals, something synonymous under the successful reign of former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
There’s also a real belief they can finally put pressure on the elite sides this season, something they didn’t have under predecessor David Moyes. Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini admitted he and his side were “worried” with their recent form ahead of the Manchester derby on Sunday, and he has injuries in key areas to worry about too.
Yaya Toure and playmaker David Silva are both doubtful for the weekend, which means City could be forced into naming somewhat of a makeshift midfield. Considering the domineering form of Marouane Fellaini for United, coupled with Angel Di Maria’s pace, industry and creativity, City’s midfield could well find themselves out-muscled and out-beaten. Van Gaal packs the central areas with bodies in an attempt to control possession, and given City have found themselves outnumbers in the middle of the park in their two defeats to Newcastle and West Ham, Manchester United could really cause them problems.
United will also be welcoming back captain Wayne Rooney, who never fails to contribute in a Manchester derby, holding the United record for most goals (11). His influence will be telling against a City side down on their luck and confidence. It’s worth noting that the Sky Blues have conceded two goals in each of their last three games in all competitions.
The Sky Blues have no doubt been the better of the two sides in the last 18 months, but is the tide swinging towards United ahead of their Manchester derby on Sunday?