It’s a Manchester derby and for the first time in a long time, neither team is realistically in the race to win an English Premier League title. The stakes are slightly different when Man Utd and Man City meet at Old Trafford on Sunday, both sides are looking to lock up Champions League places and both know that a defeat could have an impact on their ability to secure that all-important top four finish.
Man Utd enter this game on a five-game winning run in the Premier League. Louis Van Gaal has gone from being widely disliked to potentially being the manager who returns the club to European football after last season’s disappointment.
In the grand scheme of things, United are still a team destined to finish the year without a trophy and having never truly competed for a league title. However, Van Gaal’s tactical stubbornness might finally have paid off and he seems to have identified the right players to find success in that system. The midfield pairing of Ander Herrera and Maroune Fellaini wasn’t necessarily an obvious one, but the pair have worked well together playing in front of one of the EPL’s form players Michael Carrick.
Meanwhile, Robin Van Persie is expected to miss out in this game, but Man Utd hardly miss him running an attack through the dominant Wayne Rooney, plus wide players Juan Mata and Ashley Young. The power of Van Gaal’s system in terms of controlling possession and generating chances is starting to be realised.
Man City could hardly be trending in a more opposite direction. Once a member of a two-horse race for the Premier League title, City are now nine points adrift of Chelsea and defeat in this game could leave them perilously close to dropping out of the Champions League places altogether.
Their away form has been poor as well with defeats at Crystal Palace and at Burnley ultimately being turning points in their pursuit of a second straight title.
An ageing squad could face upheaval this summer and manager Manuel Pellegrini has also come under some pressure. If he is sacked at the end of the season, he’ll become the club’s second straight manager to be fired one season after winning an EPL title.
Still, there’s plenty of talent in this squad. Wilfred Bony and Sergio Aguerro are a combination up front that would scare any team in the world and David Silva has been one of the loan bright spots for the club during a difficult last month.
Betting Preview: Man Utd 13/8, Man City 15/8, Draw 12/5
Sometimes betting with your gut instincts is just the right thing to do. There’s no evidence to suggest that Man City has anything to give in this game, but they are still a very talented team with a lot of quality. We expect Sergio Aguerro to have a good game and for City to pick up a morale boosting victory, even if it has only very little impact on reflections upon their season.
The Pick: Man City 15/8