Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's troops will be looking to cause an upset against their rivals, the well anticipated clash on the horizon, with the Red Devils to land on Manchester City soil this Sunday, keeping three successive clean sheets in their last three competitive games. Man City will have eyes on extending their top of the table lead, a win would almost rule out any hopes of United catching the current leaders.
The Red Devils go to the Etihad Stadium looking for their first win in three only picking up two points from a possible six in their last two Premier League games. Man City themselves have been in phenomenal form only losing two games this season, winning a huge 20. Pep Guardiola's men scored four goals past Wolverhampton Wanderers with ease on Tuesday night, now 14 points the difference between the two rivals going into the Derby.
Anthony Martial, David De Gea and Donny Van De Beek all missed the Palace clash in midweek, and are to remain out of the tie going into Sunday's heavyweight clash. Martial picked up a knee injury ahead of the trip to South London, De Gea was out on personal reasons and will remain unavailable.
Dean Henderson will be more or less selected once again filling in and set to start back to back league games for the first time. Giving him the chance to try and stake a claim to be United's number one goalkeeper. While Van De Beek wont be in contention, he was on the bench at the weekend.
Victor Lindelof has been managing a back problem and therefore didn't play in midweek, but the Swede could return to the starting line up for Sunday and is expected to start alongside Harry Maguire at centre back. Aaron Wan Bissaka and Luke Shaw are nailed on wing backs unless they suffer an injury before the crunch clash. Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Phil Jones are sidelined through injury.
Mason Greenwood could be the player to drop out in the final third, with Edinson Cavani making his return from injury at Selhurst Park on Wednesday, the Uruguayan international is set to return. Bruno Fernandes will be shifted into the middle as usual and Marcus Rashford a lethal force on the left as usual. Scott McTominay should partner Fred in midfield, but Nemanja Matic has the opportunity to be given the nod, throwing himself into the frame. Daniel James is likely to be included on the right for the Red Devils but could be only cut out for the bench based on the overwhelming options.
As for Man City, Nathan Ake has returned to full training after missing various games since Boxing day due to a muscular injury. He could be a possibility for Guardiola for the match on Sunday. City are likely to recall Ilkay Gundogan and John Stones who began on the bench against Wolves. Stones will come in, in place of Aymeric Laporte partnering Ruben Dias.
There are expected to be wholesale changes from the side that started against Wolves with selections for Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko all to make the Starting XI. Kevin De Bruyne will be given the free role in attacking midfield alongside Rodri playing in the defensive role.
The City manager has decision to make in the final third of the field, but it would not be a surprise to see Raheem Sterling operate through the middle, with Foden and Bernardo Silva in the wide areas, meaning that Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero aswell as Riyadh Mahrez could all be given spots on the bench.
Solskjaer's men were unbeaten in February, a calendar month which included their 9-0 thumping victory against Southampton in Manchester and a comfortable UEFA Europa League 4-0 victory away at Real Sociedad. The Red Devils go into the match on Sunday with three successive draws to their name against Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Sociedad. Defensively solid but starved of goals upfront, United have a point to prove they can score as well as keep clean sheets which will be the aim in this match.
The Red Devils have managed to hold onto second place but are only five points clear of fifth placed Everton who have a game in hand on each of the top four. Like Man City the 20-time English champions will have their eyes elsewhere as they prepare to tackle AC Milan in a two-legged UEFA Europa League last 16 affair over the next couple of weeks, in addition to facing Leicester City in the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup on March 21.
As for Man City they extended their winning streak on Tuesday night, disposing of Wolves by four goals to their one to go 14 points clear at the top of the league. Guardiola's have produced good performances not just in the league but the UEFA Champions League for that matter, holding a 2-0 advantage over Borussia Monchengladbach going into their last 16 second-leg next week.
Mathematically the title race is far from over, but Man City have a 14 point advantage over United in second place and would take another huge step towards the trophy with a victory in the Manchester Derby, United on the other hand will look to disrupt the spoils. The Citizens have not lost in the league since November 21, while they have won every match since back to back draws in the middle of December, which included a 0-0 at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture.
The Manchester Derby has a great history, United winning 76 out of 184 games, with City winning 55 and there being 53 draws. But at the Etihad Stadium the Reds have the better record in the Premier League. Since Man City left Maine Road in 2003, United have won eight of the 17 top flight meetings, including the most recent fixture at Eastlands in December 2019, goals from Rashford and Martial won it for the Red Devils.
However while the earlier league fixture at Old Trafford this season ended in a 0-0 draw. City came out on top in the Carabao Cup semi-final with a 2-0 win at the Theatre of Dreams. Both teams had disallowed goals in the first half, but Stones turned in Foden's free kick to give the visitors the lead. Fernandinho sealed the win with a 20-yard volley into the bottom corner.
Seven of the past 10 Manchester derbies in all competitions have been won by the away side. There have been 151 top flight Manchester derbies, United have won 58 and City 45, with 48 draws. Man City's last home victory over the Red Devils in any competition was a 3-1 Premier League success in November 2018.
Players to watch
Shaw has been very impressive this season the left winger gathering some very good form as he has played through the season. Fernandes has been a revelation on show for the Red Devils consistently this season. Cavani can be a goal machine on his day and will look to stun City with his dangerous capabilities, with Rashford always a threat in the forward positions. Greenwood and James are promising youngsters, Greenwood known for his acute finishing and James a breath of fresh air always showing his injection of pace. James will look to attack City if bought on from the bench, looking to break the Blues back line who have been solid as ever this campaign.
City have been without a striker for various games this season, but Gundogan has found to be a regular goal scorer vital to the squad. He has managed to score 11 league goals from midfield but has failed to score in his last four in all competitions. City's wingers have been fantastic this season with Mahrez and Sterling scoring a combined 16 league goals and providing nine league assists. Stones and Dias have been a formidable partnership at centre back, Guardiola's men having registered the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season with 15.
How to watch
The clash kicks off at 16.30 (GMT) and will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports in the UK.
What the managers have said
Solskjaer spoke to club media. When asked about the progress on the pitch. He said: "Of course you would like to win every game of football. You do. But if you compare it to last season the position we are in, we are quite a bit higher up the league at the same stage. We're still through in Europe and the FA Cup so its probably the league position that you think, yes that's where we have shown the progress, hopefully we can prove in the Europa League and FA cup that we've taken another further step for this team. The ambitions are there of course and we have more experience to be in this position compared to last season. We are gelling more as a team and are fitter, but at the moment we are looking at the short term and that's Sunday and that's getting back to creating chances, taking them and scoring goals again."
Speaking on United's top four hopes. Solskjaer went on to say "Well there are still eleven games to go in the Premier League, and I think we have always, well I have always said lets get to atleast March and April before we talk about the title race. You don't talk about title races after 18 or 19 games. We have given ourselves a very good chance to improve from last season by the position we are in. I would rather be in the position we are in now compared to the position we were in last season. But of course the Premier League holds loads of quality teams, loads of good teams so we know that what we can control is ourselves and if we do our jobs and get as many points as we think we can do I'm sure we will be up there."
When Guardiola faced the media, he was asked about the hunger of his side and United's challenge on Sunday. "To do what we have done of course in this four years, its because these guys have something special. United are so strong in every department, defensively, in midfield with their quality, his playmaker Bruno Fernandes, his speed, his pace, with James, Rashford, Martial, experience of Cavani, one of the players I admire the most and for his career and what he has done. It's Manchester United, all the time they are top class its a privilege to compete with them."