Big Match Focus: Man Utd v Man City

Jose Mourinho Pep Guardiola

Manchester United can cut Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League to five points with victory at Old Trafford on Sunday.

10 December 2017
Premier League
Kick-off 16:30 GMT
Venue: Old Trafford

Referee: M. Oliver
Assistants: G. Beswick, S. Bennett
Fourth official: J. Moss

Head-to-head summary:

Man United 151 60 47 44
Man City 151 44 47 60

Previous encounter:

Manchester City 0-0 Manchester United – 27/04/17 (Premier League)

Players to watch:

Jesse Lingard is a confidence player and right now the academy product has bags of it after three goals in his last two outings. The 24-year-old has never established himself as a first team regular, but could be poised to do so if he carries on with his current form. His ball-carrying ability is a big asset to United and is proving a potent weapon on the break and in unlocking stubborn defences.

City’s Raheem Stirling is similar to Lingard in that he’s a player that has until now struggled to reach his full potential. He has, however, been showing his full quality in recent months and has a highly impressive nine goals in 13 league matches (already matching his highest tally for a single season). Several of those have been late winners in City’s last few games.

Team form and manager quotes:

Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils seem to have managed to overcome a slight wobble from two months ago when they struggled in a 0-0 draw with Liverpool and then lost to Huddersfield, Chelsea and Basel (in the Champions League).

They have won their last four matches in all competitions – an improved goal-scoring form seemingly attributed to the return from injury of talisman Paul Pogba. But the Frenchman’s drive and energy will be absent as he begins the first of a three game-ban.

If United avoid defeat on Sunday, they will set a new club record of 41 consecutive matches unbeaten at home. Their last defeat at Old Trafford was in the corresponding Manchester derby, 14 months ago.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho said: “I don’t need to know that a derby is something special for the people.

“For us, in the end, it’s three points but honestly, I think for the people born in the city and feeling the colours, it’s a good positive rivalry and a special match.

“For me, it’s one more big match against one of the best teams in the country. We are a better team than last year. I think City are also better than last season.”

The Citizens have been in sparkling form and until a surprise 2-1 reverse in Europe away to Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, had seemed virtually unstoppable. Before that hiccup, Pep Guardiola’s men had won 20 straight games in all competitions – helping them secure an eight point lead over second-placed Man United in the Premier League table.

City have however had to fight hard for points of late and needed late goals in their last three league outings (West Ham, Southampton, Huddersfield) to secure victories.

Manager Pep Guardiola said: “I am a manager to play these kinds of games on the biggest stages. That’s why we are here.

“I will enjoy it, definitely. I am looking forward to arriving and playing. I love to be there, working out what we can do to beat them.

“When you face the big teams, it demands a little bit more.

“They defend well. It is so complicated to score against them but the target is to try. They also create chances – Martial, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku – they are dangerous players.

“When you play big teams, if you don’t give the best of yourself it is impossible to beat them.”

Team news:

Pogba’s suspension for a reckless challenge on Hector Bellerin in the 3-1 win over Arsenal is a massive blow for United. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Phil Jones and Nemanja Matic are all fit, while Marouane Fellaini will have a late fitness test, but Eric Bailly and Michael Carrick are sidelined with injury.

City have no suspensions but have Leroy Sane, Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho all sitting one game away from a ban. They remain without long-term injury victims John Stones and Benjamin Mendy, while there is also doubt over club captain Kompany. But David Silva is fit after injuring himself while scoring the winner against West Ham.