Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
The first Manchester derby of the season forms Saturday evening’s entertainment – and this clash at the Etihad Stadium could have major repercussions for both sides as a busy footballing advent calendar kicks into gear. For the hosts, every point is essential at the moment considering the growing gap between themselves and Liverpool – who may be 14 clear at kick-off here.
For the visitors, if ever there was a good time to face their city rivals, it’s now. Pep Guardiola’s men have been less than their best recently, dropping points again at the weekend with a 2-2 draw at Newcastle. Meanwhile, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer navigated a potential banana skin with aplomb on Wednesday night, spoiling Jose Mourinho’s honeymoon with a 2-1 home win over Tottenham.
Manchester City vs Manchester United Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Manchester United
For all the recent wobbles, City are a side that has just walked into Turf Moor and thrashed Burnley 4-1, and bad teams don’t do that. The Citizens are getting closer to fielding a recognisable back four, too, finding themselves able to leave England centre-half John Stones on the bench on Tuesday. While there are still vulnerabilities in their setup, it remains to be seen if Solskjaer’s often tentative attacking approach has the ability to exploit them to full potential, while there are no such doubts over City’s attacking competence. Expect a repeat of last autumn’s 3-1 home win for this fixture.
Our recommended tip: Over 3.5 goals
There are, more often than not, goals to be had when these sides meet, with 14 scored across the last four derbies in the league. Both teams also still have fragile defences that verge on the unforgivable considering how much money each has spent on players over the years, and when you add in the derby factor this game has the potential to turn into a shoot-out. At Dafabet you can get odds of 5/4 that the goals will keep flowing to a total of four or more, and while it’s not a sure thing it’s certainly easy to see both sides treating attack as their best form of defence.
Last season’s tale of the tape does not make encouraging reading for fans of the visitors, as City won both games without ever really looking extended. A weeknight meeting at Old Trafford in April saw City win 2-0 through second-half strikes from Bernardo and Leroy Sane. Perhaps more comfortable, though, was City’s 3-1 win in November at this ground, where the hosts took an early lead through David Silva and never surrendered it; Aguero and Gundogan scoring either side of Martial’s penalty consolation for United.
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Players to watch: Rodri & Marcus Rashford
A goal in the recent thrashing of Burnley saw midfielder Rodri back in the headlines for City, but it’s the things he does more quietly that have seen him quickly become a favourite at the Etihad. A classy but unfussy holding midfielder, he may well be the answer to the question of what “Pep” does when Fernandinho can no longer fulfil the role of midfield general. Against United, he may well step into the breach again while the Brazilian slots into defence alongside Otamendi; he won’t let City down if this is the case.
For United to have a good day at the Etihad, they really need Marcus Rashford to be in form. Playing with a calm and maturity that belies his 22 years, the England forward scored an early opener against Spurs. Then, after his side had been pegged back (as they are all too often) Rashford won a penalty and, after a deathly delay for VAR, he converted it nervelessly. Although he has emerged during a dry spell for his club, the forward is a jewel of real quality for United, and one they should seek to build around.