On Wednesday, local antagonists United and City will meet to contest at Manchester Derby with a difference in what promises to be an enthralling evening of Carabao Cup action at Old Trafford.
With the competition’s usual two-legged semi-final format squeezed into a do-or-die one off skirmish this season, a place in the tournament’s climactic fixture at Wembley is on offer alongside the usual derby match bragging rights this week.
Manchester City – who are on course to lift the Carabao Cup for the fourth year on the spin – have pedigree to burn and success to draw confidence from ahead of their trip to the Theatre of Dreams, while their rivals in red still have everything to prove.
Ahead of what promises to be a gripping contest, we’ve taken a look at some of the key talking points surrounding the 184th Manchester Derby – PLUS – we’ve put together a superb looking 150/1 #OddsOnThat selection for the game with Betfair.
For a more detailed analysis of the clash, head on over to our Manchester United vs Manchester City predictions.
Solskjaer hoping to end semi-final misery
Much maligned manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to defy his critics this season, though real success is measured in silverware and the Norwegian boss has yet to lift any since returning to his adopted home in Manchester.
Last term, Solskjaer led United to the semi finals in three separate cup competitions, though the Red Devils came up short and were eliminated on each occasion.
United were bested by City at the semi-final stage of last year’s Carabao Cup, where the Citizens’ convincing 3-1 first leg win over their rivals at Old Trafford proved pivotal.
Solskjaer also saw his charges ousted by the same scoreline by a rampant Chelsea in the penultimate round of the FA Cup a couple of months later, before United’s dreams of winning the Europa League were ended by eventual winners Sevilla at the same stage in August.
With doubts lingering about his ability to lead United back to the summit of English football still lingering, Solskjaer will be desperate to reach his first final as the club’s manager, and if the Norwegian can go one better and lift the Carabao Cup in April, his army detractors will continue to disband.
Key creators clash: Bruno Fernandes vs Kevin de Bruyne
Portuguese schemer Bruno Fernandes and brilliant Belgian Kevin de Bruyne enjoy similar roles as talismanic figures for United and City respectively, and both players have the match-defining power to swing Wednesday’s semi-final in their team’s favour.
When it comes to goals, Bruno Fernandes is outgunning de Bruyne by some distance this season – even when you subtract goals scored from penalty kicks – though the Citizens’ star has been the more potent creative force.
De Bruyne is out performing Fernandes for both average key passes played per game and for assists so far this term, and the 29-year-old’s unparalleled ability to whisper the ball through the lines for City makes him part of any world best XI conversation.
Both superstars will be their team’s most influential figures again on Wednesday, and the outcome of their individual battle at Old Trafford will have a huge bearing on the overall result in Manchester.
Manchester United vs Manchester City predicted line-ups
Manchester United injuries and team news
Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones remain treatment room comrades, though neither defender would have been involved on Wednesday had they been fully fit.
Victor Lindelof’s lingering back complaint means the Swedish centre-half remains a doubt for Wednesday, though the rapidly improving Eric Bailly might have kept his place ahead of his counterpart had Lindelof been available anyway.
Edinson Cavani is still suspended for United following his three-game ban for an Instagram post.
Manchester United predicted line-up: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw, Fred, McTominay, Pogba, Fernandes, Rashford, Martial
Manchester City injuries and team news
A COVID-19 outbreak in the Manchester City squad means City will be withouth Ederson, Kyle Walker, Eric Garcia, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres for their trip to Old Trafford.
Nathan Ake also remains an injury doubt, as does out of favour centre-back Aymeric Laporte.
Riyad Mahrez, Benjamin Mendy and Fernandinho are all expected to be restored to the City XI in mid-week having been named among the subs against Chelsea on Sunday, while Sergio Aguero will also likely be kept in reserve.
Manchester City predicted line-up: Steffen, Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Mendy, Fernandinho, Rodrigo, de Bruyne, Mahrez, Foden, Sterling
FST’s Manchester United vs Manchester City 150/1 #OddsOnThat
Manchester City to Win
Manchester City butchered a strong Chelsea team at Stamford Bridge on Sunday evening, and the Citizens’ statement performance sent a real warning shot to their rivals for domestic silverware.
City – who were turned over on just one in their last five trips to play United in the red half of Manchester – have reached the Carabao Cup final in five of the last seven seasons, and having lifted the trophy three times on the spin, Guardiola’s serial winners know what it takes to successfully hunt down silverware.
United have only lost once in their last 12 games domestically, though many of their performances have been less impressive than their results would suggest, and the temperamental Red Devils could find matching City’s class and momentum difficult this week.
Both Teams to Score
While we expect City to leave disappointed in the Carabao Cup again, the Citizens’ chances of keeping their hosts of the scoresheet at Old Trafford feel slim.
United rarely fail to find the net, and having notched at least once in 14 of their last 15 fixtures, they look well equipped to make an impact on the scoresheet.
While United remain prolific in the final third, major defensive problems remain however, and their haul of just three clean sheets from their last 12 assignments in all competitions highlights their many unresolved issues at the back.
That mix of sparkling attacking play and lax defensive displays has led to both teams scoring in 11 of their last 15 matches, and we expect that same combination to produce action at either end again this week.
Bruno Fernandes, Kevin de Bruyne and Marcus Rashford 1+ Shots on Target each
As we touched on above, Bruno Fernandes and Kevin de Bruyne regularly rank among United and City’s most potent operators, and we expect both midfielders to be firmly in the thick of the action again on Wednesday.
Fernandes and de Bruyne rarely pass up an opportunity to shoot – something that is reflected in their respective 3.25 and 3.0 average attempts per game figures this season.
Averaging 2.95 shots per run out this term, United starlet Marcus Rashford will also carry plenty of attacking threat into Wednesday’s face off, and having developed a habit of making his mark in the Manchester Derby since his explosion on the scene in 2015, the 23-year-old looks a great bet to test Zack Steffen between the City sticks at least once.
Luke Shaw and Fernandinho to get Booked
Luke Shaw has been averaging a yellow card every three Premier League appearances for Man Utd over the past three seasons, and having already collected five bookings in 15 starts in all competitions this term, the left-back is well on his way to maintaining his average in 2020/21.
The 25-year-old is fond of a robust challenge or two, and Shaw rarely hesitates to “take one for the team” when a dangerous counter attacking scenario for an opponent looks like developing.
Using football’s dark arts to break up play is something that City stalwart Fernandinho has long been associated with, and the veteran midfielder is expected to reprise his role of rhythm disruptor at the base of the Citizens midfield this week.
The 35-year-old was cautioned when City last visited Old Trafford in early December, and we expect the experienced campaigner to throw his weight around again at the same venue on Wednesday.