It’s derby day in Manchester on Saturday. It might surprise you to learn City go into the match as close to United points-wise as they are to Liverpool. That’s got to hurt, Pep?
The Red Devils have such an odd record in the league this season. Their midweek win over Spurs means they have taken eight points with no defeats from their four league matches against other big six sides – and have also won at Chelsea in the Caribou Cup. But, they’ve only taken 13 points from 11 matches against the rest of the Premier League.
United also have a surprisingly good record at the Etihad in recent years. They may have lost 3-1 last season, but they won two and drew one of their three visits prior to that.
The problem is, they haven’t been very good at most away grounds in 2019. Their only away league victory in their last 11 attempts came at lowly Norwich, and this terrible run dates back to before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed as permanent manager. Ole doesn’t even have the keys, let alone control of the wheel when United are on the road.
This fixture took place about a month before Mourinho got the boot last season, and the Red Devils were 7/1 to win then. They’re 8/1 now, which doesn’t say much for their chances or Solskjaer’s long-term employment prospects.
Fans of rival clubs will have given a wry smile when they discovered Manchester’s own Anthony Taylor will be the referee for the latest Manchester derby. If both teams are from Manchester, who will he be biased toward?
Far be it from me to suggest any impropriety on Taylor’s part, but the record books show he has never awarded a penalty against United or sent off one of their players in the 23 of their matches he has taken charge of. Hmm.
Whatever influence Taylor has, it’s hard not to predict a City win. They’ve won the last two derbies by two goals, so back them to do so again.
Best Bet: Manchester City (-1) – 5/6
Will there be goals?
Manchester City have been the great entertainers this season. Their league matches have averaged four goals in total each, with just two featuring fewer than three. And it’s a similar pattern against the big sides at home, as 10 of their 12 league clashes since the start of 2017/18 – plus Champions League games with Liverpool and Spurs – have paid out on over 2.5 goals.
However, for all that United have struggled on the road in the league in 2019, the games have usually been tight.
Against the top sides they’ve had a 1-0 win at Spurs and a 2-0 loss at Arsenal, while only two of their seven matches on the road this season have seen at least three goals.
Both teams tend to score in big league games at the Etihad though – it’s happened in 10 of the last 12 – so count on it happening here.
Best Bet: Both teams to score and Man City to win – 8/5.
There are 19 teams who Raheem Sterling has faced at least seven times, and the only one he hasn’t scored against is Manchester United. He hadn’t scored against Liverpool prior to the Community Shield this season either, so can he lay his one remaining big duck to rest?
He has to be in with a chance. As Agüero is absent, Sterling is City’s top available scorer of home league goals against the big clubs over the last three seasons. Despite six goals in his last 10 appearances, he’s also been missing some big chances of late, and United should ensure he gets a couple.
While Sterling is the best bet, keep an eye on Ilkay Gundogan, who is 7/2 to score. He’s netted in this fixture in the last two years.
Best Bet: Raheem Sterling to score – Evens
It’s unfortunate for United that Anthony Martial looks set to miss out. He scored three of their five away league goals against the top six last season – and is due to net in the league soon having not scored in his last four appearances.
While Marcus Rashford has done his best big game work at Old Trafford, only Aguero and Firmino have more ‘big six’ league goals since the start of last season. Plus, he might get a penalty here, right, Mr Taylor?
Best Bet: Marcus Rashford to score – 11/4
* All odds correct at time of posting.