Three places and 19 points separate the two bitter rivals in the table, with the hosts seeking to steer clear of Liverpool at the top while the Red Devils aim to re-ignite their top-four pursuit.
As we have become accustomed to seeing all season long, one team’s hard work was undone by an inexplicable VAR decision, as Everton held Manchester City at Goodison Park and were somehow not awarded a penalty when the ball struck Rodri’s arm inside the area.
A lapse of concentration from Michael Keane at the other end of the field allowed Phil Foden to prod home the game’s only goal eight minutes from time, but Everton were reportedly apologised to by PGMOL chief Mike Riley after VAR official Chris Kavanagh saw nothing wrong with the Rodri incident.
However, champions certainly have to win ugly on a couple of occasions, and City have seemingly mastered the art of doing so, but they strolled to a 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round win over Peterborough United earlier this week to set up a quarter-final showdown with Southampton.
Foden’s late Goodison goal saw Man City open up a six-point gap to Liverpool in the rankings – although the Reds do boast a game in hand – and Pep Guardiola will need no reminding of how his side’s most recent home encounter went against Tottenham Hotspur.
However, the champions have unsurprisingly scored a joint-high 36 goals in the Premier League at home this term and have shipped a mere nine – winning seven in a row at the Etihad before that shock defeat to Spurs – and Man United’s clinical edge was simply non-existent last time out.
Roy Hodgson has certainly instilled a greater sense of defensive resilience into this Watford side since his arrival, but groans of frustration emanated all across Old Trafford as the Red Devils could not finish a single one of their bountiful chances on the day.
A draw with Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano can be viewed as a successful result, but a 0-0 at home to the 19th-placed Hornets did not help Man United’s top-four endeavours whatsoever, and the chasing pack are now closing in.
The Red Devils are just about clinging onto fourth spot but find themselves level on points with West Ham United – who travel to Liverpool on Saturday – while Arsenal have now cut the gap to just two points having played three fewer matches.
The draw with Hodgson’s side did at least represent a sixth game without defeat for Man United in all competitions, and not since the Vicarage Road humiliation in November have the Red Devils lost away from home in any competition, but they are still waiting for their first away Premier League clean sheet of 2022.
City cruised to a 2-0 win over United earlier in the season, but the Red Devils are no stranger to turning up the heat at the Etihad and have won four of their last five in all competitions on their rivals’ turf, but such a record will count for nought if they cannot find their best shooting boots.
We say: Manchester City 2-1 Manchester United
Man United have something of a penchant for Etihad victories and possess the talent needed to produce another shock result here, but whether Rangnick’s side have the defensive nous or attacking edge to do so is another question entirely.
Barring the surprise loss to Spurs, City have swept aside almost all who have come before them at the Etihad this season and are blessed with a near fully-fit squad, so we can only back the champions to come out on top in this crunch derby.