It was Sven-Goren Erikson who said that when he joined Manchester City, he was told by a fan to do two things, the biggest of which was ‘beat Manchester United twice.’
Whether it’s an 80 year old or a 10 year old City fan, everyone will tell you how important the game this Sunday is. For years Manchester City fans had been the on receiving end of abuse at school or at work, as Manchester United had the upper hand.
In recent times, however, it is the blue side of Manchester that has had more to shout about as the trophies have rolled in. This new period of success in derby fixtures has represented a fantastic chance for City fans to bask in the glory of being the best side in Manchester.
On Sunday, City will face an out of form United, who have only won twice in their last six games, in the 187th edition of the Manchester derby. With Liverpool only 3 points behind City, the pressure will once again be on to pick up 3 points to further the title charge. But this game is about more than the title race, local pride will be an equally important reward should City win this weekend.
The blues go into the game on the back of three below par (for their standards) performances against Peterborough, Tottenham and Everton. Moving Bernardo Silva, arguably City’s best player this season, out of his natural position in the midfield three has led to a slight loss of energy in the middle of the park. The pairing of Gundogan and De Bruyne instead hasn’t been quite as effective recently and Rodri has shown a slight dip in form. Couple this with the awful recent home record in Manchester derbies, winning only once since 2014, City fans have a right to be nervous ahead of the game.
Despite this City should still be victorious this weekend. Manchester United have been awful in recent games with their game against Watford showing just how wasteful they can be in front of goal. With United likely not to use the car park at the Etihad and instead park their bus in front of their goal for 90 minutes, the creativity of players like De Bruyne and Foden will be needed to facilitate the space in behind for players like Sterling to run into.
The slight injury concern over Dias is a worry as his leadership in the big games is extremely useful, but with Laporte and John Stones ready as a replacement partnership, City should have the strength to hold out Ronaldo, who has been out of form this season.
With all that being said, I’m predicting a cagey game where City will see plenty of the ball. United will pose a threat on the counter attack, but with City’s defensive strength I am predicting a tight 1-0 victory.