Old Trafford is the setting for an intriguing an potentially crucial encounter in the Premier League title race, as Manchester United take on bitter rivals Manchester City, who are two points better off.
Manager Louis van Gaal has already claimed that victory for his United side would establish them as genuine title contenders, and it is hard to disagree with that assertion, given their increasing array of attacking talent as well as an aptitude for winning games when not at their best. Moving above City by taking all three points here will also represent a huge statement and perhaps give them the belief to kick on and unleash their full potential.
Their last Premier League performance was by some way United’s best of the season, as they ended a run of three defeats away to Everton by sweeping aside the Toffees with minimal fuss. The stars on Merseyside were midfield duo Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin, who ran the game throughout, so a similar performance from both will be hugely important to their side’s chances here. And youngster Anthony Martial is continuing to find the net, scoring again in Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Man City will come into this testing examination in a buoyant mood after picking up a dramatic win in Europe against Sevilla, with Kevin de Bruyne’s stoppage time goal earning a scarcely deserved though priceless success to put them in the driving seat in the race to reach the last 16. As for the domestic race, they are handily placed after scoring 11 goals in their last two Premier League outings, with newly promoted Bournemouth the last side to be put to the sword.
However, doubts still exist over the defence and those refused to go away against Sevilla as Vincent Kompany was left out of the starting XI. Without him they seem to lack a little leadership, so his presence will be a welcome one should he be included here, particularly in the most hostile of settings. In attack, they need Wilfried Bony to produce a top performance as he continues to deputise for the injured Sergio Aguero, while de Bruyne’s vision may just get the better of the United back four.
Man Utd are still without Ashley Young, who has a calf injury, while defensive duo Luke Shaw and Paddy McNair are also out of contention.
Key players remain out for City, with Aguero, David Silva, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Fabian Delph all reduced to a watching brief.
Played for both – Andrew Cole: Now joint second with Wayne Rooney in the Premier League’s all-time scoring charts, Cole scored 93 league goals in a massively successful six year spell at United from 1995, winning five titles and most famously the treble in 1999. Cloer to the end of his career he spent the 2005-06 season at Man City under Stuart Pearce, ending as their top scorer with nine goals in 25 league games.