The Manchester derby, a football match that means much more than just the beautiful game kicks off at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. The United faithful will be desperate to defeat their noisy neighbors, but there will be a sense of hope rather than confidence in the Stretford End air.
Despite winning their last three matches in all competitions, the Red Devils have had an extremely underwhelming start to the season and they sit in 8th place on 15 points. Unconvincing at both ends of the field would be the best way to describe this current United side, as they have netted 1.22 goals per game on average and conceded 1.44 per ninety minutes. Goal-scoring has been their biggest issue however and the Reds top scorer is Scott McTominay on three goals. The Red Devils also have the fourth highest underperformance of expected goals.
Erik ten Hag will look into the United archives ahead of the derby, in an attempt to mirror the vintage transition football performed by the greats of the club. It is expected that the Red Devils will remain compact and look to isolate their attackers in 1v1 scenarios against the City back four. It is important that the hosts win their duels and second balls, especially as I predict Andre Onana will be forced to go direct to Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford.
However, preparation for the derby has not gone as smoothly as anticipated, as Manchester United's most recent Premier League game was a narrow 2-1 victory over bottom of the table, Sheffield United. It was the same old story as United took the lead, only for it to be almost instantly undone by lackadaisical defending. Missed opportunities nearly haunted them, but Diogo Dalot was on hand to steal all three points with a wonderful curling effort from distance.
It is no surprise that Pep Guardiola's side are already fighting at the top of the table and after nine matches, they have accumulated 21 points. Erling Haaland is the Premier League top goal scorer with nine goals and he is yet to reach peak performance this season. The Citizens always have the highest of standards and they have conceded the fewest goals in the league thus far, whilst scoring an average of 2.11 per game themselves. However, City have lost their last two away matches versus Wolves and Arsenal, where they were vulnerable at the back and uninspiring in attack.
Manchester City should not be phased by the occasion and Pep Guardiola will have composed the perfect game-plan, but it is vital that the individuals on the field do not become complacent or too comfortable. City should be able to create overloads in wide areas, with clever movement and link up play, that will cause the United defensive setup problems. The role of Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden will be vital, connecting the midfield to the attack whilst operating amongst the countless red bodies in central areas.
Last time out, the Sky Blues started extremely quickly and stunned Brighton at the Etihad, taking a two goal lead within 20 minutes. However, from that point on, the visitors looked much more threatening and they played their way into the game. On another day, City could have thrown away their lead but Brighton lacked a much needed clinical edge.
Neither side has drawn a game this season, which suggests that one side of Manchester will be leaving Old Trafford in disappointment. If United make it to the half hour mark without conceding, then they may stand a chance against City, but with their standards dropping on the road recently, I expect Pep Guardiola to have every detail nailed down.
The final prediction is Manchester United 1-3 Man City.