Despite their shocking performance in a 4-0 annihilation by Everton at the weekend, Manchester United should still provide the biggest obstacle in Manchester City’s quest to become the first team to retain the Premier League title since United themselves performed the feat in 2008-09.
At this point, it’s clear that United are in need of a complete overhaul. Deadweight – plenty of which was on show at the weekend – needs to be cut from the squad and replaced with players of quality. To help attract such players, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to be able to offer the promise of Champions League football. Finishing in the top 4 is the utmost priority for the club. Victory against Manchester City would help in this pursuit.
Following Chelsea’s draw against Burnley on Monday night, Manchester United currently occupy sixth position in the table, three points behind Chelsea in fourth place. With a game in hand over Chelsea, United have the chance to draw level with the blues courtesy of victory over Pep’s men. This would set them up nicely for their next fixture, another huge clash, against Chelsea at the weekend.
Manchester City meanwhile, continue in their attempts to stay ahead of Liverpool in the race for the league title. Having been dumped from the Champions League by Spurs, City bounced back with a league victory over the north London club at the weekend. Such a result was imperative now that the Premier League is firmly placed as City’s number one priority.
Despite Man Utd being 29/5 (6.80) for victory, City will view them as their last big test in their march to the title. Attain victory at Old Trafford and City have a strong chance to continue their winning run – currently 10 in a row – all the way until the end of the season; with only Burnley, Leicester City and Brighton to come.
Whilst Manchester City’s odds have them as favourites to win at 7/15 (1.47), and they have a strong recent record at Old Trafford (City are unbeaten in their last 3 visits with Pep Guardiola aiming to become the first visiting manager in PL history to win three consecutive games at O.T.) local derbies are never a walk-over. Especially when one of the teams is the proverbial ‘wounded animal’. Right now, many players in that United squad are not only playing for victory – at odds of 29/5 (6.80) – but also playing for their futures.
Despite their drubbing at the hands of The Toffees, Man Utd should not be completely dismissed as a threat by Man City. United should be highly motivated by the need to save face. Anything other than maximum effort will see a less-than-happy response from the 70,000+ United fans in attendance. Additionally, Man Utd are unbeaten in their last 14 Premier League matches at home and have scored at least two goals in nine of the last 10.
They do however retain a soft underbelly, having kept only two clean sheets at home in the competition this season, the joint-fewest alongside Fulham. With City as free-scoring as ever, this fixture almost guarantees goals. With Man City such strong favourites, the smart money is on Manchester City to win and both teams to score at 3/2 (2.50).