Manchester United and Manchester City lock horns for the 183rd time on Saturday, with just one point and one place separating the near-neighbours in the Premier League table.
Both clubs endured disappointing starts to their respective campaigns, but have begun to climb the table in recent weeks and would stay in touch with the leading pack with victory in this match.
If you had told Manchester United fans at the beginning of 2020-21 that they would go into their first derby of the season, more than a quarter of the way into the campaign, sitting above Man City in the table then they would have no doubt taken that position.
However, all has not been well for either of these teams so far this term and, while Man City do now seem to be finding their feet, Man United continue to struggle with inconsistency and vastly differing home and away form.
Defeat to RB Leipzig in midweek condemned them to Europa League football again after Christmas, despite getting themselves into a position where they only needed one point from their final two games to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League.
Indeed, the Red Devils have now won a club-record nine successive away league games and are unbeaten on the road since January, and with questions again being asked of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following their Champions League exit it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that it is only their away form which is keeping him in the job at the moment.
United’s record at Old Trafford is an entirely different story, with only a league-low 21% of their points – four of 19 – coming on their own patch so far this season.
City have by no means enjoyed a faultless season themselves so far, though, and they make the short trip to Old Trafford sitting below their bitter rivals in the table.
Whereas Man United are six points better off than they were after 10 games of last season, Man City are four points worse off.
Guardiola’s men are beginning to find the sort of consistency we have become used to seeing from them in recent campaigns, though, and they head into this derby on a five-match unbeaten run during which time they have not conceded a single goal.
There will still be concerns over Man City’s away form, though, having won just once on the road in the league since their opening game of the campaign. But they have shown ominous signs of clicking into top gear in recent weeks and can go above their rivals with victory as they look to close the gap on the league leaders.
Is this finally the beginning of the end for Solskjaer? We have been down this road several times already and Solskjaer has previously managed a big result or two to buy himself more time. It would not be at all surprising if United won the derby but their home league form is poor, with just one win all season, and their defending has genuinely been atrocious at times. Surely City will capitalise.
MANCHESTER UTD FORM GUIDE
Premier League: DLWWWW
All competitions: WWWLWL
MANCHESTER CITY FORM GUIDE
Premier League: DWDLWW
All competitions: LWWDWW
HEAD TO HEAD
Manchester United have a predictably good historical record against Manchester City and have won 76 games out of a total of 182 official matches played between the two sides. Manchester City have managed only 54 victories against their local rivals and will want to cut the deficit this weekend.
These two sides met four times last season, and it was United who emerged with the derby bragging rights having won three of those – including both league games.
The previous game between the two teams earlier this year ended in a surprising 2-0 victory for Manchester United.
The Red Devils have not won three successive league editions of the derby for more than a decade now, while they could also lose three in a row across all competitions for the first time since 2009.
Manchester City have won more Premier League away games at Old Trafford than any other visiting side, though, with six of their seven such victories coming in the last nine seasons.
Manchester City have impressively kept five clean sheets in a row heading into Saturday’s derby. Defensively they look sound and Pep Guardiola will hope things click at the other end having failed to score in their last three encounters with United. The way United are starting matches, however, it would be a real surprise if they didn’t go one or two goals down early in the first half.
We are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match which our betting partners at Irokobet.com are offering 1.80 odds on.
Only rock-bottom Sheffield United have a worse first-half record in the Premier League than Man Utd this season and no team has conceded more goals in the first 45 minutes, so betting on the Red Devils conceding in the first half isn’t a bad idea.
On the plus side, only three teams have a better record in the second half than United while City have only managed five goals after the break this season. With that in mind, United to score the last goal appeals.
City are experts at holding on to a lead. In each of their last 13 victories in the Premier League they have been ahead at half-time, and Guardiola’s raced into 3-0 and 2-0 leads at the break during their respective recent successes over Burnley and Fulham.
United do not usually make such strong starts, as they have been trailing at half-time in three of their last four matches.
The Red Devils did come back to win two of those games against West Ham and Southampton, while they rallied against Leipzig during the week, but City are less likely to throw away an early advantage. So we predict a first half win for Man City with Man Utd winning the second half.
PREDICTION: MAN UTD 1-2 MAN CITY
United have relied on second-half comebacks for each of their last two Premier League wins, but left themselves too much to do against better opposition in midweek.
City are just starting to find their best form and will be desperate to compound Solskjaer’s misery, having lost both league meetings between the sides last season.
Solskjaer has managed to ease growing pressure on his shoulders in the past with timely victories in matches exactly like this one, and United’s record in the derby last season commands Man City’s respect too.
However, it is impossible to look past Man United’s home form this season and, while Man City’s away record is not exactly outstanding either, Guardiola’s men do seem to be finding a level of consistency they had previously been lacking.