Football Features

‘They have a unique scoring machine’ – Man Utd vs Man City expected lineups & predictions

By Harry Edwards

Published: 16:39, 5 November 2021

Manchester United welcome rivals Manchester City to Old Trafford on Saturday at 12:30pm (UK time) with both sides looking to close the gap on the early Premier League leaders.

Man Utd haven’t been great of late, but they overturned a poor run of form in the Premier League with a 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. The result keeps them within three points of the top four after 10 games.


Premier League title odds with William Hill

  • Man City (11/8)
  • Chelsea (2/1)
  • Liverpool (5/2)
  • Man Utd (40/1)
  • West Ham (100/1)

18+ only. Be Gamble Aware. All odds in this article are correct at 12:00, 04/11/2021.


Man City are third and three points clear of Man Utd, but Pep Guardiola’s side suffered their first league defeat in eight games last weekend, losing 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace. Both teams went unbeaten in the Champions League in midweek, but they will now have their sights set on bragging rights in the Manchester Derby. Read on for our preview of Saturday’s clash, including predicted starting XIs.

How will Man Utd line up?

If there’s a fully fit centre-back at Man Utd, could you please make yourself known to the manager? The Red Devils were rocked by yet another big fitness issue in midweek as Raphael Varane was ruled out for a month with a hamstring injury suffered in the first half of their 2-2 Champions League draw with Atalanta.

The Frenchman had only recently returned from a groin injury and was set to be a key part of their back three. So, who replaces him? Victor Lindelof didn’t travel for trip to Italy but may be rushed back to join Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire in front of David de Gea.

Elsewhere, we shouldn’t expect too much change on the flanks, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemingly content to trust Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Shaw’s place on the left will provide Man Utd with another option for pushing forward while Wan-Bissaka can drop deeper when required to keep his side tighter at the back, protecting them from devastating Man City counter-attacks.

Also key in preventing the counter will be ‘McFred’. The defensive midfield partnership of Scott McTominay and Fred draws much criticism from both Man Utd fans and neutrals, but they remain a favourite of the manager and are the best shield his squad has. They should be joined in the middle of the park by Bruno Fernandes, though the Portuguese midfielder will find himself closer to the opposition area than his own.

In attack, there’s very little reason for Man Utd to make changes from their XI against Tottenham, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani capable of using their experience (and quality) to hurt the City’s defence. Ronaldo is hard for most defenders to stop, while Cavani is a killer with the ball at his feet, a clinical finisher most teams would love to have even at his age.

Man City’s starting XI will be…

Talking of absentee centre-backs, Guardiola will have to decide who replaces Aymeric Laporte in his backline this Saturday. The Spaniard was sent off in the defeat against Crystal Palace last weekend and is suspended until after the international break.

In midweek, John Stones made his return to the starting XI after spending a large period of time on the bench and although he scored an own goal, the Englishman will be expected to line up alongside Ruben Dias at the heart of Man City’s defence. They should be flanked by Kyle Walker (though he faces a late fitness test) and Joao Cancelo as full-backs, the only real options for Man City, with Ederson in goal.

The big question for Man City is who starts in the attacking six positions. It’s often hard to predict with Guardiola. But against a ropey Man Utd side (and with his team looking to bounce back) he might like to dominate in midfield. That would require the trio of Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, who will be hoping for more luck against Man Utd than while hosting Crystal Palace last week.

Guardiola has lately looked set playing Phil Foden in the central False No.9 role. Jack Grealish also seems a guaranteed starter, while Gabriel Jesus should continue on the right wing. Riyad Mahrez could easily come in after his performance in midweek, so don’t count him out completely, but Raheem Sterling appears to have fallen out of favour,  at least when it comes to starting.

Player to watch? Man Utd’s Michael Jordan

Ronaldo was once again the hero for Man Utd in midweek, scoring twice to force a 2-2 draw with Atalanta. The goals came in stoppage time of either half to equalise for Man Utd and highlighted the 36-year-old’s importance. Obviously, Ronaldo is still one of the best players in world football and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. But there were some ideas he would be taking this Man Utd team to the next level, rather than regularly bailing them out.

The Portuguese forward has scored nine goals in 11 games across all competitions for Man Utd so far this season, including four at Old Trafford. Prior to the 3-0 win over Tottenham last weekend, Ronaldo had gone four Premier League games without scoring, including three matches in which he started and that 5-0 defeat to Liverpool. He returned to scoring form at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and was compared to Michael Jordan for his impact.

“We’re not happy conceding two goals,” Solskjaer said after the Atalanta victory.

“But [Ronaldo] does provide those moments and I’m sure the Chicago Bulls didn’t mind having Michael Jordan either.

“Sometimes teams have the players they have and that’s why they are Manchester United, that’s why they are champions at the Chicago Bulls. You just come up with those moments.”

Nor would Manchester City mind having Ronaldo, having tried to sign him in the summer.

“[Manchester United] have one of the best players in history, a scoring machine who can do unique things,” Guardiola told reporters this week.

“Of course, we have a plan and we are going to try to do our own thing.”

Ronaldo has a decent Manchester derby record, too, with three goals in his last five league appearances for United against City.

William Hill are offering odds of 6/1 for Ronaldo to score first against Man City.

Under-the-radar trends and insights? De Bruyne’s bizarre assist drought

Kevin De Bruyne could be about to go a whole year without providing an assist in the second half of a Premier League game. Since 8 November 2020, all 10 of his Premier League assists have come in the first half. This amounts to 1,017 minutes of post-break playing time without setting up a goal, despite creating creating 3.08 chances per 90 minutes.

There have been eight red cards in 48 Premier League Manchester derby matches. But according to Opta, only one player has been sent of more than once in the fixture, Cristiano Ronaldo (January 2006 and November 2008).

Another from Opta: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer actually has the best win rate (50%) of any manager to face the Guardiola at least five times. He has won four of his eight meetings with Man City boss in all competitions.

Scoreline prediction? A score draw

Both teams have much to lose heading into the derby. United are already eight points below leaders Chelsea, who could establish an identical margin over City if the reigning champions are beaten at Old Trafford. And with both teams missing key centre-backs, there’s a strong chance this game will be more cagey than the visitor’s win over Club Brugge, or Man Utd’s defeat to Liverpool, for example. There is star quality in attack, so don’t expect it to be goalless, but we could see both sides cancelling each other out at Old Trafford.

Scoreline prediction: Man Utd 1-1 Man City (13/2 with William Hill)

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