By Cain Smith.
The latest edition of the Manchester Derby takes place this Saturday at Old Trafford, and after demotion to the Europa League following their 3-2 loss to RB Leipzig on Tuesday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be fearing for his position — once again — at the helm at Manchester United.
During his tenure, Solskjaer has been under pressure multiple times and come through the other side unscathed, but as the patience of United fans falls, the manager is in another difficult situation. Yet, these are the situations where he and United seem to thrive.
Meanwhile, Manchester City moved into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, cruising past Marseille with a 3-0 win to secure top spot in Group C.
Pep Guardiola’s side will not be completely confident going into this fixture, though, as they have not had the most of joy against Solskjaer’s United. The Norweigan managed to get the league double over The Blues last campaign.
Neither of these teams have shown great consistency so far this season. United can be a completely different team in different halves of the same match and City are yet to show whether they can take this league by storm after Liverpool’s injury woes.
A victory could move either side into the top four and within touching distance of the summit of the table.
Though they’ve just suffered defeat in Europe, United have won their last four Premier League games despite going behind in three of those fixtures.
Only one of these victories have been played at Old Trafford, and only 21% of their points this season have come at the Theatre of Dreams.
With their impressive record away from home against United, Guardiola’s side should have the mental advantage coming into this fixture, while United will be desperate to conjure up some sort of form at home.
The Citizens have won seven games in the Premier League at Old Trafford, more than any other side. Six of those wins have come in the last nine seasons.
United were missing both of their forward options — Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani — against Leipzig. The former has been confirmed to be back and ready to face City, while the latter’s involvement on Saturday is still unknown.
Solskjaer said that Cavani has started training today, but is unsure whether he will make it into the matchday squad. Fred returns to action after two matches out of the side following his red card against PSG.
Guardiola has confirmed that Sergio Aguero will not be involved from the start of the match, but the Argentinian could make an appearance off the bench against United — he’s scored nine against the Red Devils.
Both Ilkay Gundogan and Eric Garcia picked up knocks against Marseille. The German midfielder has been announced as fit ahead of the battle against United, but Garcia will miss out and is confirmed to be out for two or three weeks according to his manager.
United’s formation will be interesting as their tried and trusted three-at-the-back, used against the big sides, was dismantled in the first 20 minutes against Leipzig. Solskjaer will have a dilemma of whether to stick with that or change things up.
Fred’s return will be vital to United’s potential success. The Reds have lost just two games this campaign when the Brazilian midfielder has started.
It is unlikely that City will be as naive in transitions as they were last season when United stunned them with their fast-paced counter-attacks in both the home and away fixtures.
As always, it is a game which is entirely unpredictable, but one thing which you can usually guarantee from a Manchester Derby is goals — there have only been three goalless derbies since 2010.
Will United bounce back and show their quality against a team with the calibre of Man City, or will Guardiola show that he’s learnt from his previous mistakes and outclass Solskjaer on the day?
It is a game where both managers qualities will be questioned and tested.