Manchester United host Manchester City on Saturday in what could be one of their most evenly matched Premier League encounters in years.
United have won eight games in a row and could equal their longest winning run in all competitions since Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013.
Second-placed City, who are four points above United, lost to Southampton in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
“The improvement of [United’s] team is clear,” said City boss Pep Guardiola.
United are closing in on the loan signing of Burnley striker Wout Weghorst but he will not be eligible to play because he would need to be registered by 12:00 GMT on Friday.
Anthony Martial is a doubt with a leg injury, so in-form Marcus Rashford, who has scored seven goals in his last six games, could play as a centre-forward.
Erik ten Hag’s United have only lost once in 18 games since a 6-3 defeat by City in October.
“We have to prove that [how far they’ve come] on the pitch. There is only one truth and it is always on the pitch,” said the manager.
“It is not coming overnight, there has been a process in the last months where we develop, progress. We have to be brave, act with belief and play our game.
“We took the lesson [from the 6-3 loss] and from that point on we make huge progress. We have to continue that process.”
City will be without England defender John Stones, who has a fitness issue and also missed their surprise midweek cup defeat by the Premier League’s bottom team.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan suggested they lacked hunger after losing at St Mary’s.
“What happened didn’t surprise me,” said Guardiola. “We tried to avoid it and hopefully it is not going to happen again, but it happened because we won four Premier Leagues in five years.
“After back-to-back two times, this can happen. We weren’t ready to go there. I was concerned it could happen and unfortunately it did. I don’t know if it will happen again, but I am not concerned. “
City striker Erling Haaland has scored 21 goals in 16 Premier League appearances. He needs just two more goals to tie the Golden Boot tally from the previous three seasons.
United will be without full-back Diogo Dalot with a hamstring injury, while midfielder Donny van de Beek has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
CHRIS SUTTON’S PREDICTION
I am very clear in my mind about how this game will go.
Manchester United have really improved under Erik ten Hag, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for their progress since the start of the season.
There is something not quite right about Manchester City, who have not been firing on all cylinders since the season resumed after the World Cup, but I am still expecting them to win.
Some City players like Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker look out of form, and even Kevin de Bruyne has been below his best, but part of their problem is down to what is known as ‘Pep Roulette’ – Pep Guardiola’s ever-changing team selections.
He gambled in the Carabao Cup against Southampton on Wednesday, when Kalvin Phillips came into midfield for his first start, and it didn’t pay off.
Guardiola says he has had some “ridiculous” ideas about how his side will beat United, but I’m pretty sure it will include giving Erling Haaland a start. He will play his best side of him and, if they perform anything like they can do, they will win-it’s as simple as that.
I was very confident City would absolutely smash United in October, and it turned out I didn’t go big enough with my prediction – I said 4-1 and it ended up 6-3. It will be a lot closer this time, but Pep will still collect the points.
Head to head
- Manchester City’s 6-3 Premier League win against Manchester United in October set a record for most goals in this fixture.
- United have lost the last three league meetings. A fourth in a row would equal the Premier League club record for defeats against the same opponent, set against Liverpool in 2002 and City in 2014.
- City have won nine of their past 14 visits to Old Trafford in all competitions, directly following a run of one victory in 32 attempts.
- United could go four successive home games without scoring against City for just the second time, and first since 1914.
- The Red Devils have not dropped points from a winning position in a Manchester derby since a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in September 2005.
- Manchester United have earned an unsurpassed 35 points in the Premier League since beating Liverpool on 22 August.
- United are the only team to have won all Premier League matches they have led this season, doing so 11 times.
- They can win five successive league games for the first time since April 2021. That run included a 2-0 victory at Manchester City.
- United have earned nine consecutive home wins in all competitions for the first time since December 2017. That streak was ended by a 2-1 Premier League defeat versus Manchester City.
- The Red Devils have lost four successive league games against the reigning champions, by an aggregate score of 16-6. They have never suffered five successive defeats against the title holders.
- Marcus Rashford has scored in all six Manchester United fixtures since the World Cup.
- However, Rashford hasn’t scored in any of his last five appearances against Manchester City, managing just one shot on target in total.
- Erik ten Hag can become the first Manchester United manager since David Moyes to lose his first two Manchester derbies.
- Manchester City have won three successive Premier League away matches.
- City scored multiple goals in eight of their opening nine league fixtures this season, but have since done so in only three of their eight games.
- Kevin de Bruyne has failed to score or assist in any of his last five Premier League appearances, his longest such run since a 10-match streak between December 2018 and March 2019.
- This is Pep Guardiola’s 500th top-flight match as a manager. His 76% win percentage is the best of any manager in Europe’s top five leagues to have taken charge of 100 or more games since Guardiola’s first season in 2008-09.
- Guardiola has won six competitive Manchester derbies at Old Trafford, twice as many as at the Etihad Stadium.
Predict Manchester United’s starting XI for their next fixture – remember you can change the formation!
Predict Manchester City’s starting XI for their next fixture – remember you can change the formation!