Manchester Derby Preview: The Red Devils V/S The Citizens

The Premier League has always brought to us some of the most exhilarating and enticing matches of all time and it continues to do so in the present times with even more action-packed games nowadays. The stoppage-time winners match turned out of favor in the blink of an eye, the rush of adrenaline in the bloodstream of fans in the dying moments, rising blood pressure of coaches and etc are all that we experience in a big match involving the best teams across the world. And when it’s a derby to be played in front of 75kfans, the emotion and excitement levels have to be extravagant. Yes, you’ve got it, we’re talking about the Manchester derby, one of the fiercest rivalries in club football.

Manchester United welcomes their arch-rivals Manchester City in a heavyweight clash at Old Trafford on a magical Saturday afternoon. It will be the 186th meeting between the two sides which started way back in 1881.

United is a bit in a tumultuous position ahead of this clash with a bad run–of form in recent games. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s job completely depends on the outcome of this match as he is on the verge of being sacked after a string of poor results. Though they salvaged some pride by defeating Tottenham last week, they remain 8 points off from the top position. The Reds of Manchester definitely need to win this fixture to save their season as well as their manager’s job. We know United can tear apart oppositions on their day given the high-profile names the squad hosts. Time will tell whether that revival day is Saturday itself or will they dig themselves more after the game.

Manchester City, on the other side, is in a much better position in comparison to United. They stand third in the table with 20 points from 10 games. Fresh from hammering four past Brugge, the Citizens’ll aim to take perfect revenge for the earlier derby loss this year. We know how dangerous City can be when on a song. With the loss to Palace, City has squandered the opportunity to go within touching distance from the top.  They’ll be eager to come on top against United and make a statement of winning the trophy this year too. Let’s see what happens in this battle of pride tomorrow at the Theatre of Dreams.



The Red Devils are coming onto this match after sealing a convincing and comfortable win against Tottenham last weekend in London. United won that match after remaining winless in four consecutive premier league games. No wonder that the win acted as a huge confidence booster for Solskjaer’s side before this big clash. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 39thmin with a superbly taken volley from a Bruno cross.

Edinson Cavani doubled the lead in the 64th min by pouncing onto a defense-splitting bass from Cristiano.  Marcus Rashford completed the demolition with a cool strike in the 86th min, this time assisted by Matic. Though the away side was inferior in ball possession, they had four shots on target compared to zero from Spurs. In the UCL, United traveled to Atalanta and could draw it thanks to twin strikes from Ronaldo in stoppage times. His goal in the 91st minute saved the Manchester side from an inevitable loss. They have now won two out of the four games in UCL, drawing one and losing another. This next game will be quite important given the fact that they’ll be out to revive their season. Will Ole be able to edge his counterpart in this ensuing battle? Time will itself tell us who will win.

Derby Drama
Derby Drama


The Citizens will be traveling to their next-door neighbors after suffering a shocking 0-2 defeat at the hands of CrystalPalace. It was one of the worst displays from the Blues of Manchester in the Pep-era. Nothing went in their favor as Aymeric Laporte also was shown a straight red for a clumsy tackle on Zaha. Zaha did irritate the Citizens all throughout the game with his gameplay. Palace took the lead as early as in the 6th min thanks to a Zaha wonder-strike. They doubled their lead in the dying minutes of the game courtesy of a Conor Gallagher strike. They were superior in possession but couldn’t lash more than 3 shots on target (same as a palace). But Pep’s team carved a remarkable turnaround and blew away Club Brugge 5-1 in their midweek UCL fixture.

Joao Cancelo was their star man with a record 3 assists in the game, involved in every goal apparently. Foden, Mahrez, Sterling, Jesus were all on the scoresheet as they marched to a comfortable win. They have to improve their game definitely in order to beat United in their own backyard. Pep exactly knows how to snatch wins in big matches and this time would be no exception either. Get out of your workaholic personalities and spare a handful amount of time to watch this wonderful encounter.

Tactical Analysis

Manchester United

The Red side from Manchester is going the go with a few similar tactics as they might go with the same formation when they played Tottenham. The formation looks like a simple 3-5-2, but as we move on with it in the game, different roles intensify. There are good 3 at the back who might change their roles when needed. One of the center-back might act as a defensive midfielder while in attack and come back to position whenever help is needed. As we see the midfield, they might want to take the roles with, particularly specific players. The Left and the Right Midfielders might want to provide some assistance to the attack and defense by shifting positions from wing to back at their respective flanks.

On the central side of the midfield, if we take the previous game, Fred was doing the job from the back end of the midfield, Mctominay and Bruno Fernandes worked their ways being central or towards the attack. This helped with some flexible playmaking and good goals being scored that time. On the attack, we might see the two goal-scorer and playmakers, namely Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani, both having the capability to shift positions. Ronaldo can be wide towards the left, which might make it obvious for Edinson to take his CF role in action if the situation demands.

Mangers ; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola
Mangers ; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola

Manchester City

The visitors might want their side to remain unexposed and without any freckles inside their team. A simple 4-3-3 looks good but as the match progresses this formation changes to 3-2-2-3 with intervening roles in between. For Example, in the previous game we saw, Rodri and Dias were playing very DMF style whereas De Bruyne and Bernardo were available to play ahead in the attack. As Laporte is absent now, John Stones has to be available for the game. But the attack is very settled, 3 at the front with the support of 2 AMFs, so it will be better if they continue with the same. The defense has the support of 5, with 2 DMF and 3 Defenders. But the drawback with be the flank-to-flank attack by the opposition, still it has yielded results for them.



The REDS OF MANCHESTER will be playing against City with a host of injury concerns in their mind. Star defender Raphael Varane will be out for almost a month after suffering a hamstring injury once again. Victor Lindelof suffered a knock before the Atalanta game and is a doubt for Saturday’s game. Paul Pogba continues to remain on the sidelines following a three-match ban after seeing a red against Liverpool. Other than these three, Ole will have a full squad available against the mighty Citizens.

Predicted Lineup

GK: De Gea

Defenders: Wan Bissaka Bailly Lindelof Maguire Luke Shaw

Midfield: Fred McTominay Bruno Fernandes

Attack: Cavani and Ronaldo

Defenders for Derby : Stones (Manchester City) and Maguire (United)
Defenders for Derby: Stones (Manchester City) and Maguire (United)


The Blues of Manchester will be going to Old Trafford with no such injury concerns in their mind. Only Ferran Torres is sidelined for a long time. Aymeric Laporte will miss this game owing to his red against Palace. Apart from Laporte and Torres, Pep has a fully fit squad to choose his starting XI.

Predicted Lineup

GK: Ederson

Defense : Cancelo Stones Dias Walker

Midfield: Rodri B.Silva DeBruyne

Attack: Grealish Foden Gabriel.Jesus

Coach’s Corner

Manchester United

 Ole might want to stick to his tactics but might want to devise a plan against attacking Manchester City. The quick and fierce attacking Jack Grealish has to be stopped by the most ruthless right-back from Manchester United. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has to be the key to stopping Jack Grealish. Whereas how to tackle their quality pressing must also be the question for Ole. Bruno links up quickly with every attacking chance whenever possible. So, he has to be available for the chances. We saw their card Scott McTominay playing its role to full power. He can be the guy for their upcoming Derby. In the attack, Cristiano Ronaldo has to be fusible with his role in the attacking play to gift some goals in the game.

Manchester City

 Pep has to view a 3D structure on how to draw quick defensive tactics towards a very flamboyant United team. John Stones has to be proactive with his role in stopping Ronaldo and his crucial attacking passes. Kevin De Bruyne has to be the main man after seeing Man United’s defending. His opportunistic attack has to be the card for City. On the attack, Raheem Sterling has to be good for their attack as Jack Grealish will be mostly targeted in the squad. Plus, some concern in finishing will be assured for them. But Pep might want to go with the flow.

Head to Head

The two teams from Manchester have squared off 185 times against each other to date. The Red Devils have a clear advantage in the head-to-head with 77 wins out of the total contested. The Sky Blues have registered 55 wins while the rest 53 have ended in a stalemate.

The most recent meeting between the two sides was in the PL in March. Manchester United won the fixture 2-0 courtesy of some excellent football by them. Bruno Fernandes’s penalty in the second minute and Luke Shaw’s stunning solo goal gave them a hard-fought win.  Ruben Dias and his company will be out to take revenge when they face United tomorrow.



The Portuguese superstar has rejuvenated himself in United colors yet again for the second time in his career. He has started to show up his top performances against opponents and winning games single-handedly for his side. He has turned out to be the savior for the Devils quite a number of times this season. With supreme goal-scoring abilities, he has already registered 9 goals and 1 assist in only 10 stars.  Fresh from scoring three times in his last two games and saving United many times, he would be eager to produce a Cristiano-esque performance again at the Old Trafford tomorrow.

Manchester United - players to watch out for- CR7 AND Bruno
Manchester United – players to watch out for CR7 AND Bruno


The Portuguese ace, popularly known as the Portuguese magnifico at United, has been the most consistent performer for Red-Devils. Over the years, he has carried United on his shoulders and produced some sensational performances to help them eke out a win. No wonder that he is the most dangerous and creative attacking midfielder in the world right now. He tops the chart among the most chances created in PL with 37chances as also in the UCL with 16chances.  With four goals and eight assists to his name, he is still United’s go-to man. Ole would seriously want that the deadly combo of Ronaldo-Bruno works out against City on the way of beating them.


Another Portuguese, who was labeled as a “flop” in the 2019-2020 season, has now started to show his worth.  He is a breakthrough star for the Citizens in this season with some astronomical performances from him.  He has already registered two goals and four assists to his name. One of the most versatile players that can play at any position, his inch-perfect crosses and runs-down-the-wing are a delight to watch. His activeness on the pitch makes him one of the most important players on the pitch. Guardiola will be expecting another brilliant show from him tomorrow.

Cancelo and Foden : Manchester City
Cancelo and Foden : Manchester City


The English youngster is one of the most talented young-sensation in the world right now. His performances over the years for ManCity in PL and UCL are an example of how good he is. He has earned Guardiola’s reliability on him so much that he seldom gets dropped from the squad. Having 5 goals and four assists in 12 appearances is no joke for a floating attacker. He is also quite utilizable in the “false nine” position.  Foden’s pace, dribbling skills, and creativity make him a nightmare for defenders. Against United, he will be looking to come good for his side.

An Epic Rivalry to witness

The Reds vs the Blues of Manchester, the long-time champions vs the new success-holders, Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick vs Mario Balotelli’s iconic celebration reading “Why Always me’; you can find every possible element of excitement in this red-hot mouth-watering Manchester derby. In all respects, this match is going to be enthralling and engrossing for the fans who’ll be waiting for more moments of magic. The desperateness of both the teams to win this fixture to take themselves in better position spices it up even more.

All you need is a packet full of popcorn and a comfortable sitting place to enjoy this captivating derby!! Expect a fierce encounter to unfold between the teams when the whistle blows off at 18:00 hrs IST. Can Ole’s tricky reds pull off a surprise against their blue counterparts and bag a dream win at the Theatre of Dreams or Will Pep’s team brush aside this challenge and march forward on their way to registering a first derby win at the OLD TRAFFORD  since 2019? Sit with some anti-hypertensive tablets as this match is headed certainly for a thriller. Will it be a Siuuuuuuu at the last minute again? Or will it be any other Citizen starring at Old Trafford? Tune into the match to know everything. 

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Tamoghna Das
Chinmay Buva

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