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Manchester United head into Saturday’s derby on the back of a fine run of form
Manchester City are looking to close the gap to Arsenal at the top of the table
The reverse fixture was one-sided but United should make this game more competitive
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The Red Devils have been in fine form of late, but City remain the team to beat in the Premier League.
Back Manchester City to win against Manchester United in the early kick-off on Saturday. (-120)
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There is a feeling of optimism at Old Trafford again. Off the pitch, the unpopular Glazer family have confirmed that they are looking to sell the club. Manchester United fans will not want to jump from the frying pan to the fire, but the departure of the current regime would undoubtedly give the club a better chance of fulfilling its vast potential.
On the field, meanwhile, United are in fantastic form. They have won eight matches in a row in all competitions; the last time they managed more than that was six years ago, under Jose Mourinho.
In recent days United progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup and the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, a competition they are now the favorites to win with the best online sportsbooks. Most importantly of all, Erik ten Hag’s side are in the top four of the Premier League, having entered the Champions League spots for the first time this season on New Year’s Eve.
It must be pointed out that United have not had the toughest fixtures of late. Twenty-five percent of their victories in the current run have come against teams from outside the Premier League. Only one of their opponents in that sequence is currently in the top half of the top tier.
Yet a team can only beat what is put in front of it. And even defeating eight theoretically weaker opponents without once slipping up is not that common in a low-scoring sport like soccer.
United will therefore arrive into Saturday’s showdown with their crosstown rivals in a confident mood, but they remain the underdogs against the Premier League champions. Ten Hag will not necessarily mind that, though. In fact, it might actually suit his side.
By their remarkably high standards, Manchester City have had a couple of disappointing results of late.
On New Year’s Eve, Pep Guardiola’s side dropped two points in a 1-1 draw with Everton in the Premier League. In truth, there was not a great deal wrong with City’s showing that day.
Everton scored with virtually their only opportunity - and even that was masterfully finished by Demarai Gray. The champions fashioned plenty of chances of their own but were let down by profligacy in front of the goal.
However, there was nothing unfortunate about Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat by Southampton in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup. City were extremely poor at St Mary’s, as Guardiola himself admitted after the match. For the first time since 2018, they did not land a single shot on target all game.
There is no need to go overboard. City have set such high standards that a loss can feel monumental, but even the greatest teams of all time had their off-nights.
Guardiola’s side remain in a pretty decent position: a win at Old Trafford would see them move two points adrift of Arsenal in top spot. In turn, that would pile the pressure on Mikel Arteta’s men ahead of their own derby-day clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
The next few weeks could go a long way to determining where the Premier League title ends up this campaign. City will take on Arsenal for the first time this season in the middle of next month, while both teams are also due to face Manchester United and Tottenham.
Even beyond the issue of local bragging rights, this feels like a huge match for both teams.
For Manchester United, it represents a chance to cement their recent progress and prove that they can beat the very best sides in the division, as they did in previous home games against Liverpool, Arsenal, and Tottenham.
As for City, the derby gives them a chance to show that class is permanent and that they remain the team to beat in the Premier League. Indeed, Guardiola’s side are still the title favorites - but a defeat here and a win for Arsenal on Sunday would probably change that.
This will probably be a tight encounter with little to choose between the two teams. We expect United to make a fast start, albeit with their attacks coming after quick breaks forward rather than phases of established possession.
City were below par against Southampton last time out, but the likes of Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, and Erling Haaland were all left out of the starting XI in midweek. And perhaps that poor performance is actually a bad thing for United, who are about to face a wounded animal.
A trip to Old Trafford is seldom easy, but we recommend backing Manchester City to come out on top this weekend.
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Teams: Manchester United vs Manchester City
Location: Old Trafford, Manchester, England.
Date and Time: Saturday 14 January 2023, 7:00 AM EST
How to Watch: USA Network, fuboTV
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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