Both teams enter the highly-anticipated battle on the back of Champions League victories, as the Red Devils sunk Copenhagen 1-0, while the reigning European champions overcame BSC Young Boys 3-1.
In Man United’s first home fixture since the death of the legendary Sir Bobby Charlton, Red Devils and Copenhagen fans stood as one during a moving pre-game tribute to the 1966 World Cup winner, whose passing and legacy will also be marked by moments of remembrance across the country this weekend.
Erik ten Hag’s men needed to rely on a Diogo Dalot stunner to see off Sheffield United in their most recent Premier League game before the visit of the Danish champions, and owing to a similarly toothless attacking display, members of the rearguard were required to save the day again.
Harry Maguire’s second-half header and a stoppage-time penalty save from the under-fire Andre Onana saw Man United make it third time lucky in the top tier of European football, and Ten Hag’s side have now strung together a three-game winning sequence for the first time in the 2023-24 campaign, although not one of those victories has been convincing by any stretch.
Nevertheless, by holding off the threat of Sheffield United and Brentford in their last two Premier League contests, Man United have surged up to eighth in the Premier League table with 15 points to their name, although a five-point gap still separates them from Liverpool in the final Champions League position.
Only Southampton and Crystal Palace have prevented Man United from scoring in a Premier League home fixture since the start of the 2022-23 season, but the hitherto stingy Red Devils defence remain without a top-flight clean sheet at Old Trafford this term, music to the ears of Erling Haaland and co.
Ending a European goal drought stretching all the way back to April, Haaland quickly rediscovered his golden Champions League touch when Man City continued the defence of their crown against Young Boys, who held out for the first 45 minutes before Manuel Akanji bundled home early in the second half.
Switzerland international Akanji’s goal on home soil was quickly wiped out by a stunning lobbed effort from Meschack Elia, but Haaland proceeded to snap a five-game run without a Champions League goal from the penalty spot, before completing his brace with a quintessential arrowed finish into the top corner.
Remaining unblemished in European football this season, Pep Guardiola’s treble winners also avoided an unfathomable third successive Premier League defeat last weekend, edging out Brighton & Hove Albion by two goals to one to remain on the coat-tails of leaders Tottenham Hotspur, who could temporarily go five points clear with victory over Crystal Palace on Friday night.
The statistics do not weigh heavily in the visitors’ favour, though, as Man City have now gone six games without keeping a clean sheet in all tournaments and are now at risk of losing three consecutive Premier League matches for the first time in the Guardiola era; not since the Manuel Pellegrini days of 2016 have they endured such a barren run in the top flight.
An unwanted record for the Catalonian coach is not beyond the realm of possibility, as Man United came up trumps 2-1 in this fixture back in January, but Man City quickly completed their revenge mission in the FA Cup final en route to joining their bitter adversaries in English football’s exclusive treble club.
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We say: Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City
Even the most impassioned Man United supporter ought to admit that there has been an element of fortune to each of their last three victories, and continued shortcomings in the final third should prove to be their downfall in Sunday’s tantalising derby.
Man City have hardly been exemplary in defence this season, but even with a wall of red in the Old Trafford stands roaring them on, we cannot envisage the hosts’ disjointed attack troubling Guardiola’s side, who ought to earn both the bragging rights and three points from the weekend’s headline match.