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January 30 2020 was the day that hope arrived to Manchester United in the shape of Bruno Fernandes. On the day he was signed they were level on points with Wolves and Tottenham and just a point above Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United with a meagre 34 points from 24 league matches.
United were six points behind Chelsea in fourth and fourteen points behind Leicester in third. Added to that, Marcus Rashford, who had been the by far United’s best player, would be out of a couple of months with a stress fracture in his back, an injury that prompted questions about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s overuse of his star players. If Fernandes had not been signed, United were likely destined for the Europa League positions and Solskjaer surely out of a job.
Fernandes hit the ground running in a way few signings in the Premier League ever have with eight goals and seven assists as United overhauled that 14 point gap to Leicester to finish third in the table.
However, it wasn’t just the bare statistics that made Fernandes such a catalyst for change it United. It was him leading the press and demanding other United players follow him. His unselfish quick short passing in the final third became infectious with Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood catching the bug. His form has continued into this season and the Portuguese star is understandably a short-priced favourite for PFA Player of the Year award.
Manchester City v Manchester United
Sunday, March 7: 4.30pm
Sky Sports Main Event
The question always lingered that Bruno was papering over the cracks of a mediocre United squad and manager and that if his form ever dropped off we would see a return to the consistently lackadaisical performances that preceded his arrival. We may be getting the answer to that question right now. United have won only two of their last eight matches, with Fernandes not playing with the same dynamic force of earlier in the season.
The Portuguese slowing down is not a surprise given he has played 40 of United’s 42 competitive matches this season after a heavy workload last term. Paul Pogba’s injury has also had a negative effect on his performance with teams able to key in on Fernandes and not fear his fellow midfielder being able to hurt them between the lines.
All in all, United are not in ideal shape facing a Man City team looking for a 22nd win on the bounce after a dominant 4-1 victory at home to Wolves on Tuesday. Since City’s attack caught fire against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge at the beginning of January, the only team to really threaten to break the winning streak was West Ham last Saturday.
David Moyes’ team had the better chances throughout and they should have snatched a draw in injury time with Issa Diop missing a relatively easy header. However, the City team facing West Ham was missing Joao Cancelo, Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling as Pep Guardiola sought to rotate his brilliant squad. All four of those key players should start on Sunday as City seek to continue their winning streak.
Given the respective form of both teams, it’s hard to see anything other than a City win and that will be the first leg of my Bet Builder.
Maguire has been carded seven times in 21 league matches in what’s been a very disappointing season from the England stalwart. One would expect City to dominate possession as usual and Maguire will be forced into a last-ditch tackle or two.
Silva is starting to show the form of that made him City’s outstanding player in the 2018/19 season and the price looks fair for him to find the target here.
Since they lost 5-2 to Leicester in September, City have conceded just five goals in 17 games at home, while their cross-city rivals have seen goals dry-up of late – they’ve scored just once in their last four Premier League away games. City winning to-nil looks a decent shout at the odds.
Man City v Man Utd tips
These four selections in a Bet Builder will give you odds of around 25/1 with Paddy Power.
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