The 180th Manchester Derby takes place on Tuesday night, as Manchester United will host Manchester City at Old Trafford in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal tie.
The Red Devils started their run in the tournament in shaky fashion, as they barely got past League 1 side Rochdale AFC. After a slow start to proceedings, United finally opened the scoring through Mason Greenwood in the 68th minute.
The lead would not last long, however, as 16-year old Luke Matheson equalized only ten minutes later for the Dale. Penalties were needed to decide a winner, and a big save from Sergio Romero set up Daniel James for a clinching spot kick, which he buried to send United into the next round.
That set up a contest versus rivals Chelsea. Marcus Rashford opened the scoring from the spot at the half hour mark, but Michy Batshuayi would tie the game after dancing past the United defence. His goal was good, but it would be upstaged by the eventual winner from Rashford, who smashed home a free kick from 30 yards out.
The Red Devils did benefit from a fortunate draw for the quarterfinals, as they faced off against Colchester United of League 2 at Old Trafford. It took longer than expected, but the home side managed to score three goals in ten minutes to seal the victory and book their spot in the semifinals.
City kicked off their Carabao Cup campaign in dominant fashion, beating Preston North End 3-0 away from home. All the goals came in the first half, with Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus finding the back of the net before an own goal from Ryan Ledson settled the contest.
Things didn’t get much harder for the Citizens in the next round, as they took another 3-0 lead, this time versus Premier League side Southampton. It was an Argentine party on the night, as Nicolas Otamendi opened the scoring and Sergio Aguero grabbed a brace later on. The Saints got a late consolation goal through Jack Stephens, but it didn’t mean much by full time.
They had a tougher time against Oxford United, as an early goal from Joao Cancelo was cancelled out courtesy of a composed finish by Matt Taylor moments into the second half. City just had too much talent to deal with, however, as two goals from Sterling secured their spot in the semifinals.
Last time out
It’s been over three years since these two sides faced off in domestic cup competition, as United beat City at Old Trafford in the fourth round of the then-named EFL Cup.
City would control the early portions of the contest, having more of the ball and creating more chances early on. United did grow into the game as it went on, to be fair, making for a truly compelling first half.
The deadlock would be broken ten minutes after the halftime break, as the Red Devils were able to hit their rivals on a quick counter. Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked the ball up and drove forward before playing a pass across the penalty area.
A defensive miscue allowed the ball to find Juan Mata, and the diminutive Spainard made no mistake with the finish, slotting home past Willy Caballero.
That would prove to be the crucial moment of the match, as United used the momentum of the goal to push forward and dominate. They were not able to grab a second, but they did stop City from creating any sort of chances late on, making it easy to hold on to the victory.
United have yet another injury concern to deal with, as centerback Harry Maguire picked up a knock versus Wolves, and was visibly struggling as the game went on. He’s been listed as doubtful for the derby, with a final decision set to be made on the day of the match.
There is some good news, as Diogo Dalot finally returned to the team this past weekend, and there’s still a chance that Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard could feature after each recovering from the flu.
City have benefitted from a number of returns in recent days, but it’s unknown who will be fit in time for Tuesday’s matchup. Goalkeeper Ederson and defender Aymeric Laporte are back in training, and might be ready to take on the Red Devils. Nicolas Otamendi is still out, however, so it will be interesting to see who plays at centerback for the Citizens.
Manchester United: Romero, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Matic, Fred, James, Andreas, Rashford, Martial
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Zinchenko, David Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling
What to watch for
Potential tactical adjustments
When United were able to beat City earlier this season, it was because of a counter attacking masterclass. The likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and Daniel James just wouldn’t stop running past the opposing defense, who were left ragged at full time. It showed what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows best as a coach, but he’ll have a tough time pulling off a similar feat on Tuesday.
City manager Pep Guardiola is known as one of this generation's greatest tacticians, so he’ll have certainly learned plenty of lessons from this teams earlier loss. To expect the same thing to happen once again would be foolish, but it’s unclear just how the Spanish coach will change his gameplan up.
There’s a chance Pep pulls off a role reversal on the night, having his City team sit back and allow United plenty of possession instead. This year has proven the Red Devils can’t actually do much when given the ball and time on it. They resort to simple passes around the midfield before someone takes a wild shot or has a cross blocked.
This would also allow the Citizens to hit on the counter themselves. They still have fast players who can get in behind and fly past Harry Maguire, who’s lack of speed has seen him be compared to a human refrigerator at times.
They’ll be plenty of talent on the field, but it might be the managers on the sidelines who ultimately decide how this massive matchup plays out.