Setting the scene… It’s the showdown we’ve all been waiting for as United welcome cross-city rivals Manchester City to Old Trafford on Sunday.
How are we shaping up? The Reds are enjoying a good run of form at the moment having won the last four matches in all competitions after guaranteeing a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages as Group A winners with Tuesday night’ against CSK Moscow Now, in the second of three successive home games, Mourinho’s men will be desperate to inflict City’s first domestic defeat of the season and record five straight league victories for the first time this term – with this one arguably being the most important triumph thus far.
A chance to make history… Yes, that’s right! Our midweek comeback win over CSKA in Europe meant that United equalled a historic club record of 40 home matches unbeaten in all competitions, matching the run achieved by Sir Matt Busby’s team between December 1964 and March 1966. Old Trafford has been a fortress for the last 14 months, with the incredible sequence beginning after a 2-1 defeat against City in September 2016. So, the Reds can set a new club record at the Theatre of Dreams against the same opponents this weekend – which would certainly make it extra special – and make it 12 home wins out of 12 in all competitions this season. Let’s hope we can do it!
What’s the team news? Speaking after Tuesday’s victory, the boss confirmed that Nemanja Matic is set to play this weekendafter sitting out the win over CSKA Moscow following recent trouble with a muscular problem. His return will be timely as Paul Pogba starts a three-match domestic ban after his red card against Arsenal. Mourinho also said that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has “a big chance” of featuring against City and Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini have “a chance” of being involved. But Eric Bailly and captain Michael Carrick are ruled out again. The boss could give a further update on his squad in his pre-match press conference on Friday. Meanwhile, reports have emerged that Spanish playmaker David Silva is doubtful for City, who could recall skipper Vincent Kompany and midfielder Fernandinho after the pair were rested for last Sunday’s 2-1 victory over West Ham as they are a yellow card away from a one-match domestic suspension.
How are City doing? Pep Guardiola’s side have had a formidable start to the campaign and equalled the number of successive Premier League wins in a single season (13) when coming from behind to defeat West Ham, managed by former Reds boss David Moyes, at the Etihad Stadium. The only points they have dropped in the league came in a 1-1 draw at home to Everton back in August. The Blues had won a remarkable 20 matches in a row before their 28-game unbeaten run stretching back to April came to an end in the Champions League on Wednesday night after a 2-1 defeat by Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine, although top spot in Group F had already been secured. Unsurprisingly, City boast the best attack in the division having averaged almost three goals a game so far – netting 46 in 15 league matches – but United have the best defensive record in the division having only conceded nine goals so far, one more than City who are second in that respect.
What’s our record like against them?Historically, the Reds have a strong record against our near neighbours heading into the 175th Manchester derby – winning 72 and drawing 52 of the previous 174 encounters, 40 of which have been played in the Premier League era. Last season, the Reds were beaten 2-1 by City at home in the league before Juan Mata scored the only goal to knock the Blues out of the League Cup and the sides played out a goalless draw at the Etihad Stadium in April. The last meeting came on US soil, with the pre-season match in Houston in July, the first ever Manchester derby played outside England. On that occasion, the red 2-0 win with Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford combining to sink the Blues.
Did you know? Our last derby match-winner in the league was Marcus Rashford, whose dream introduction to first-team life in the spring of 2016 was capped with the only goal of the game in his first taste of the derby at senior level, while that strike at the Etihad also made him United’s youngest derby goalscorer in the Premier League era.
Who is the referee? Michael Oliver will take charge of his fourth Manchester derby, and second at OT after City’s 3-0 win over United in March 2014, when the Reds cross swords with City this weekend. The Fifa official from Northumberland will encounter Mourinho’s men for the first time since our 2-0 victory at home to Leicester back in August. He’ll be assisted by Gary Beswick and Simon Bennett, while Jon Moss – who refereed United’s 4-2 win at Watford recently – will be the fourth official.