Manchester United take on Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday in the Manchester derby, with the Red Devils hoping to overcome their bitter rivals and shake off their Champions League elimination to RB Leipzig in midweek.
That loss has led to renewed speculation over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future, though reports suggest his win percentage this season means the board will continue to back him.
The Premier League derby is as much about the opposing managers as it is Manchester United and Manchester City. Pep Guardiola goes into the match with a 66% win percentage in all competitions this season, and Solskjaer not far behind with 61%. Head-to-head in the last 10 league meetings, each side has won four times and they’ve drawn twice.
Although the season is in its early stages, the importance of the clash shouldn’t be underestimated, just one point separates United and City – sitting sixth and seventh in the table respectively, with a game in hand over those above them. A win for either would mean moving into the coveted top four.
While on paper not much separates the teams, the morale and confidence in each camp could be the deciding factor. Guardiola’s players go into the match having topped their Champions League group with a convincing win over Marseille, Solskjaer’s side could still be reeling from the prospect of Europa League football.
Solskjaer will no doubt opt to start Fred in his midfield after the Brazilian missed the Leipzig match with suspension. Fred has started 67% of matches for this season and has the second-highest individual win percentage when started (75%). The club have lost 33% of matches when he hasn’t featured in the starting 11.
Paul Pogba would naturally be in contention for the starting line-up after his impressive cameo appearance in the Champions League, the French World Cup winner made headlines this week after his outspoken agent insisted his time at Man United was coming to an end. The events could give Solskjaer a selection headache.
Kevin De Bruyne will be featured in United’s pre-match analysis, the Belgian has two goals and six assists in his nine league appearances this season. Bruno Fernandes could prove even more dangerous for his side having bagged seven goals and four assists in 10 matches. Both players are considered among the best midfielders in the world, though on stats alone the Portuguese comes out on top for the 2020/21 season so far.
Old Trafford has become nightmarish for Solskjaer’s men this season as they struggle to find consistent home form. No fans have been allowed in the ground since their 2-0 victory against Man City in March. The lack of fans has had an impact across the footballing world but the Red Devils must start competing for the fans at home.
United will undoubtedly take motivation from heading into the match ahead of City in the league, who they haven’t finished above since winning the title in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in 2012/13. Can Solskjaer prove his tactical aptitude and brush aside the doubts by overcoming one of the most highly regarded coaching in the game? Of any manager Pep Guardiola has faced at least five times, he has the worst record against Solskjaer, picking up an average 1.2 points per game.
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