Manchester United - Manchester City preview: Sky Blues seek bragging rights over fierce rivals

Manchester United - Manchester City preview: Sky Blues seek bragging rights over fierce rivals

Two of the Premier League's top sides go head-to-head in a huge Manchester derby on Sunday at Old Trafford, with City looking to avoid being leapfrogged at the summit

HockingL91
Liam Hocking

Local rivals Manchester United and Manchester City meet at Old Trafford with both clubs in pursuit of wrestling the Premier League title from Chelsea's hands by the end of the season.

While it is still relatively early in the campaign, with plenty of points still to play for, it could be vital in one of the sides taking a mental advantage as we head towards winter. 

This weekend's game falls on the weekend of the four-year anniversary of City's famous 6-1 win away to United in 2011, although the visitors themselves are the latest to put in a half-hearted performance against their rivals, last season's 4-2 scoreline in favour of United symbolising City's poor season.

Team news

The sides go into the derby with mixed fortunes on the fitness front, with key players missing for City and an almost fully-fit squad for Louis van Gaal to choose from.

Only Luke Shaw and Paddy McNair are unavailable, although Ashley Young may not be ready to play despite his return to training, having missed three weeks of action. 

Wayne Rooney will hope to build on his 11 goal tally in Manchester derbies - the highest of any player in the fixture - but whether he starts up front or Anthony Martial gets the nod remains to be seen, with Rooney deployed in a deeper role at times for United.

Manuel Pellegrini, meanwhile, confirms that skipper Vincent Kompany is fit to return, but also said that Nicolas Otámendi and Eliaqium Mangala are in good form, hinting at a possibly unchanged central defence. 

Sergio Agüero and David Silva, two of City's most influential players, remain on the sidelines, which will certainly give United a boost. Samir Nasri, Gäel Clichy and Fabian Delph are also ruled out, but left-back Aleksandar Kolarov is available after making a cameo appearance in Wednesday's late win over Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League.

The view from both sides of Manchester

United boss van Gaal concedes that their bitter rivals are "favourites", with his side's third place position the reason behind his conclusion, although he does recognise that it is only "a point difference", which could be overturned this weekend.

Bastian Schweinsteiger has played in Champions League and World Cup finals, so isn't likely to be fazed by his first derby appearance, and admits he is "looking forward" to the game, which is "something very special".

City's new hero Kevin de Bruyne, also making his derby debut, says to "take a point or even lose, it’s not ideal", but knows the game "won’t be the deciding factor in who wins the title".

Pellegrini is hoping the versatility his side can offer will be the difference, insisting "we have a lot of different ways to play", and highlights that "in two or three games we scored 15 goals without strikers" last season during a similar striker crisis. 

Previous meetings

United lead the way with derby victories, winning 69 compared to City's 49, but the gulf in class between the sides in the late 90's has now been bridged, with more at stake in this fixture than ever before.

Last season saw a win apiece, both securing home victories, with Agüero scoring three goals against United over both games, the first a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.

The latest installment came in April, United convincingly winning 4-2 in what was City's last defeat of the season. Goals from Young, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata and Chris Smalling gave the home fans a day to remember.

Neutral fans will be hoping there are as many goals in Sunday's game, with an exciting match in store on Super Sunday.

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