Venue: Old Trafford
Date: 10 December 2017
Referee: Michael Oliver
Kick off: 16:30
1 vs 2. The Manchester Derby. The most important game of the season so far. The late game on Sunday 10 December will see Manchester United host Manchester City at Old Trafford. City haven’t lost a game in the Premier League this season. They’ve dug out wins in recent weeks, after setting the league alight earlier on. United have been solid, nothing spectacular. This match is also the latest installment in the Pep Guardiola vs Jose Mourinho saga – if Pep’s side wins, the Blues will be 11 points ahead of United.
The Guardiola vs Mourinho cannot be dismissed – a few jibes from Mourinho have set the tone and each man’s ego will mean that they want the 3 points. It remains to be seen just how adventurous Mourinho will be. He’ll want to make this an old-fashioned derby, with the United players going in hard in tackles and Old Trafford a cauldron of noise and hostility. If City get an early goal it’s going to be a matter of who can play the better football – in this regard, City are the better side.
The most significant team news came during Guardiola’s press conference on Friday. After doubts earlier in the week, Pep confirmed that David Silva will play in the derby on Sunday. This is fantastic news – hopefully we’ll see Silva and Kevin De Bruyne combine to devastating effect. City have missed John Stones since his injury and he is still unavailable. Pep still has to see whether Vincent Kompany will be fit to start.
Apart from that one potential problem, expect a settled lineup against United, with Sergio Aguero probably starting ahead of Gabriel Jesus. Pep won’t experiment too much in a game of this magnitude.
What to do with United? A fair few stuttering performances mean that they sit 8 points behind their noisy neighbours – many pundits are of the view that a loss in this game will end their title hopes. While it’s a little early to make such a big prediction, United have done well this season to grind out wins here and there, without being utterly convincing. They come into this game on the back of a 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.
They will be without arguably their best player, Paul Pogba. Even though they’re playing at home, we know what kind of setup Jose Mourinho prefers. United will try to narrow the pitch, defend deep, and try to hit City on the counter.
Even if Paul Pogba had been available for this game I’d wager Mourinho would favour a defensive setup. During the first few games of the season City managed to get an early goal, negating the possibility that other teams would simply sit back and defend.
The loss against Shakhtar Donetsk would have angered Guardiola and he’ll want the team to make a statement on Sunday. United will pose a threat from corners but City’s midfield can dominate them if they move the ball fast enough. I’m going for a 3-1 win to the Blues.