WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) is back for a midweek firecracker. Can Jose Mourinho rejuvenate his Manchester United side and get revenge for the defeat to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City back in September?
Manchester United v Manchester City | Wednesday 20:00 | Sky Sports 1
It’s already the second Manchester derby of the season thanks to the EFL Cup draw and this one is also at Old Trafford. The blue half of Manchester won the bragging rights back in September when City bagged a 2-1 win thanks to early goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho.
Usually I would say we could expect weakened squads at this stage of this competition from clubs of City and United’s stature, just as we had in Tuesday night’s Liverpool v Tottenham encounter, but with the size of this fixture and the current form of both sides, that might go out the window.
Man City are now winless in five games and United were swept aside by Chelsea at the weekend to make it three games without a win in the Premier League. A win here would do both teams the world of good.
Pep Guardiola’s men toiled against Southampton on Sunday; they had the lion’s share of possession and chances but came up short. The manager was noticeably frustrated and that’s unsurprising after the result against Barcelona in which his side played well but gave themselves nothing to show for it.
The encouraging thing for the Citizens is that the fluid passing football is still there and the chances are being created. A draw against Saints isn’t a terrible result either with the form that they are in.
As for the Red Devils, that 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge was really demoralising. Going into the game off the back of a comfortable 4-1 victory over a decent Fenerbahce and having also managed a hard fought point at Anfield, they must have been feeling good.
Jose Mourinho’s comprehensive knowledge of the Chelsea players and ability to get results against his nearest rivals should have stood them in good stead but they played very poorly at the back and failed to link the midfield up effectively with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It now means that United are six points off the pace in the Premier League and at least five behind the clear leading pack of Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham.
I still think Man City are playing well, regardless of results, and having already won at Old Trafford this season I find it hard to comprehend United’s favouritism in the match odds.
The 19/10 available on an away win means we can back the Sky Blues on the +0 Asian Handicap line at better than even-money; 15/14 with 188Bet. They have won four of the last seven Manchester derbies at the Theatre of Dreams – I simply have to back that.
In order to gain more control of the game I expect Mourinho to opt for Michael Carrick in the centre of midfield. Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera managed well at Anfield nine days ago but at Chelsea they were overrun by the energy of N’Golo Kante and the industry of Nemanja Matic.
United recorded their lowest possession figure in Premier League history against Liverpool; just 35%. That must be improved upon if they are to advance to the quarter-finals here.
Ibrahimovic has hit a rut, his biggest in six years in fact – after going five consecutive league games without a goal. He’s almost 2/1 to net any time; it’s tempting against this unimproved Manchester City backline but I’d rather have all of my bets siding with the visitors on Wednesday night.
Mourinho has a poor record against his opposite number, his record reading; W3-D5-L9. I’ve been pretty disappointed with Guardiola’s impact on City’s defence and also feel that he’s killed a bit of the squad’s chemistry by binning Joe Hart but there’s no denying his technical coaching ability.
Ilkay Gundogan found plenty of space against Barcelona and has already opened his scoring account for City. I have been impressed with him and if he starts he’s likely to have Fernandinho covering and allowing him to get forward. The 17/2 about him scoring from 888 looks a bit overpriced.