Saturday’s Premier League action kicks off at Old Trafford with a potentially decisive fixture for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future at Manchester United as Manchester City arrive at the Theatre of Dreams, with the visitors the betting favourites to pick up all three points.
The home side are betting underdogs with bettingsidor and other bookmakers in a clash with their neighbours and this is possibly the game that will determine the fate of United’s possible title challenge this season.
United have gone from being comfortable favourites with bookmakers to finish in the top four at the start of the season to being pegged one of the clubs most likely to change managers midseason after a slew of poor performances in September and October.
As is customary, Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace in Bergamo gave Man United a hard-earned 2-2 draw with Atalanta in the Champions League and threw Solskjaer another lifeline at Old Trafford.
Unfortunately for the Norwegian manager, it appears as the Red Devils have developed an overdependence on one man, who seems to have no plans of stopping scoring anytime soon.
But United will need someone to join forces with Ronaldo up top if they are to outplay Pep Guardiola’s Man City, who have had some struggles of their own in recent times.
The Cityzens have bounced back from a shock 2-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace in their most recent Premier League outing with a 4-1 thrashing of Club Brugge in midweek Champions League action.
Yet, last weekend’s loss to Patrick Vieira’s side has seen City slip to fourth in the table, five points adrift of league leaders Chelsea, which means they can ill-afford to lose more ground on Thomas Tuchel’s team.
Meanwhile, the Red Devils already trail the London outfit by a staggering eight points, and another failed attempt to pick up all three points here could prove detrimental to their title hopes.
Manchester United vs Manchester City Head-to-Head
Man United’s upturn in Premier League H2H form has somewhat coincided with Solskjaer’s arrival at the helm in 2018.
After losing his first top-flight derby against cross-town rivals as a manager, the Norwegian has guided United to a four-game unbeaten H2H streak in the Premier League (W3, D1).
United’s undefeated run against Man City under Solskjaer is their longest since 2011 during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, which speaks highly of the 48-year-old’s understanding of this fixture.
More importantly, Solskjaer has overseen his side keeping three consecutive league clean sheets against the Cityzens, as many shutouts as they amassed in their previous 18 encounters against them.
Manchester United Preview
Solskjaer’s change of formation from 4-2-3-1 to 3-5-2 paid massive dividends against Tottenham last time out as Man United swept Spurs away 3-0 in London.
That victory has brought United’s frustrating four-match winless run in the Premier League to a halt (D1, L3), marking their first clean sheet in the competition since a 1-0 win at Wolverhampton in late August.
However, the Red Devils have come nowhere near that defensive standard at Old Trafford lately. They have conceded at least once in their last 13 Premier League home matches, their third-longest such streak ever.
Though Old Trafford had long been deemed a fortress, it has not been the case in 2021, with United already suffering seven competitive defeats here this calendar year.
Another defeat would see United lose eight competitive matches at the Theatre of Dreams in a single calendar year for the first time since 1989.
Solskjaer also needs to work with his men on set-pieces as the three-time European champions enter this round as the only Premier League side yet to score from such plays this season.
Manchester City Preview
Though they have shown a bit more consistency than their hosts so far this term, Man City have had some ups and downs, like it was the case at this stage of last season.
That said, the Cityzens head into proceedings amid an outstanding away form, having won three of their last four Premier League games on the road (D1) since losing 1-0 to Tottenham on the opening weekend.
But Guardiola’s inability to capture Harry Kane or any other out-and-out striker in the summer has come back to haunt him on several occasions this term.
City have drawn a blank in three of their inaugural ten Premier League fixtures so far, as many failed attempts as they had in the entire 2020/21 campaign.
If they find the net here, it is likely to be beyond half-time, as 62.5% of Man City’s Premier League away goals scored this season have come in the second half of play.
Manchester United vs Manchester City Predicted Line-ups
Manchester United (3-4-1-2): David de Gea; Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Scott McTominay, Fred, Luke Shaw; Bruno Fernandes; Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, John Stones, Joao Cancelo; Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne; Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish.