32 minutes: Malaysia and Walker fight. A cheeky push here, a sly trip there. Malaysia falls head over heels. Once over, the play stops.
30 minutes: Ederson Blutter long. Straight to De Gea, who hooks back upfield. Football in 1987 had its own unique charm.
28 minutes: This game has stabilized a bit. a bit late City are still enjoying more of the possession, but United look a little sharper in attack. There’s not much to it, to be fair.
26 minutes: Rashford, quarterbacking from deep, sprays a brilliant diagonal ball to Fernandes, just left of the D. The ball lifts off the turf and Fernandes can’t stop it going out for the goal kick. Still, as that pass flew through the air, a world of possibilities briefly opened up.
24 minutes: First light glimpse of goal for Haaland who almost ended a fine City passing sequence by taking possession just inside the United box on the right, cutting inside and shooting. But who has stopped his attack? – Casemiro.
22 minutes: Cancelo pings a clever cross down the inside-left channel towards Foden who has a yard on Wan-Bissaka. But the offside flag pops up. “It’s all boring waiting for the transition to attack, isn’t it?” asks Gary Naylor, breaking up the row. “Give me two minutes of Leeds’ full-throttle, high-risk attack last night over 20 minutes of this PowerPoint football.” Wait until you get him on the subject of Everton.
20 minutes: Mahrez and Walker combined brilliantly down the right and Malaysia won a corner. Haaland has barely touched the ball, but all eyes are on him, though. But Mahrez’s delivery goes nowhere near him. United clear their line.
18 minutes: A chance for De Bruyne to break down the left. But he hesitates a bit, allowing Fred, who clearly describes in detail to track his every move, get inside and steal the ball. The crowd had a lot of fun.
16 minutes: This time De Bruyne goes down the right but Fred sticks him hard. The ball ricochets between them and out for a goal kick. De Bruyne looks a little frustrated when the bounce doesn’t go his way.
15 minutes: De Bruyne works his way down the left but his pass is intercepted infield and United counter. Eriksen blutters down the left to release Marshall into space. Martial crosses low, hoping to find either Rashford or Martial, but Ake’s hook is clear. United try again, Martial this time looping high into the box. Ederson deals with that.
13 minutes: City took some of the sting out of the game with a sickly back-to-back period.
11 minutes: Silva cruises into midfield carelessly possession, pass someone through the center circle, and United counter again. Eriksen slides Fernandez down the right. Fernandes enters the box and pulls a shot past Ederson and the left side of the goal. That was a chance, and Fernandez grimaced accordingly.
9 minutes: The game is played at 101 mph. The city is pushing hard, they don’t want to do it. United are dealing with it well, though, holding their own and threatening to give as good as they get. They have City Harry and Malaysia pinged in space down left. He crosses dangerously, but the flag goes up again for offside.
7 minutes: De Bruyne easily turns away from Fred on the right touchline and sends the ball towards Cancelo on the other flank. Cancelo’s deep cross is easily cleared by United, who try to launch one of their trademark blistering transitions, but the flag goes up when Martial is adrift offside.
5 minutes: The city is enjoying the lion’s share of these early exchanges. No big surprise there.
3 minutes: Cancelo rolls a nice pass down the left for Silva, who crosses long towards Mahrez. For a moment, it looked promising for City, but the Malaysian struggled to wrestle the ball away from Mahrez, much to the delight of the home fans. That defense is good.
2 minutes: An early sign of intent from both teams as Marshall climbed over Akanji who stood on his ground. An in-flight Cancelo was then unceremoniously brought down by Ericsson. Everyone’s ready for it all right, but it’s the Manchester derby, so it’s probably hin-dropping news.
Get the united ball rolling. In the first half, City took the lead towards Stretford End. Coincidentally, our old MBM friend Will Unwin is on busman’s holiday at Old Trafford this afternoon, and here’s his first breaking missive: “Peter Reid is in the directors’ box dressed as a private detective in a fedora. The Rooney family is in the back row.”
The teams are out! United in red, City sky blue. Lots of friendly banter between players from both sets in the tunnel. There are definitely some games after the World Cup. Somewhere in the studio, Roy Kane and Gary Neville are studying apoplexy. Amidst all the friendly hubbub, Erling Haaland stands tall, alone at the back, staring straight ahead into his own world, preparing for action. Jock Wallace would approve. We’ll be leaving in a few minutes.
… and while we’re on the subject of fans telling it the way they see it …
City’s players finish their warm-ups and return to the changing room. There’s a beautiful moment when United fans near the tunnel start singing for Roy Keane as Erling Haaland saunters past. No need to explain why. Sweet sounds of pantomime abuse. Holland has a brief smile on his face. File that under ‘highly amused’. It is stored away, then. But at what cost to United? An ally? A goal? Three goals? Anyway, the bear has been poked, so let’s see how it turns out.
Pre-match postbag. “ETH really like Shaw as a center back and, to be fair, he’s done a good job there so far. But City’s attack is a very different proposition to anything he’s faced so far.” – Dean Kinsella
“What’s going on with Lisandro Martinez? Luke Shaw has filled in admirably at centre-back but surely United are a good side to play Martinez and at left-back. Or did Martinez celebrate the World Cup win so hard that he’s still recovering?” – John Collins
“It’s a good morning for the Manchester derby, even if the sun isn’t up here in ‘flyover country’ yet. As a Liverpool fan, I’m looking forward to a high-scoring draw with lots of mischief and many, many cards. Make it happen!” Joe Pearson of Indianapolis
“City are going around with their tiki-taki and not scoring while United are on the up-tack. United win hands down” – Jeff Sachs
… But if City are very much in the title race, surely United are too, right? right We’ve been circling the cup for the past week, so here’s a reminder of where Manchester’s rivals stand in the current fixture. Premier League As it approaches the halfway mark.
Erik ten Haag’s turn, and he takes the opportunity to praise the arrival Wout Weghorst. “He is the kind of striker we don’t have at the moment. I’ve known him for a long time and followed him through leagues and clubs and wherever he turned up, he dazzled. He’s definitely a goalscorer, but he’s also kind of a team player, a really good pressing player. He can also play counter attack. He is really effective. “
For a possible United title challenge? “I don’t dream. I have to develop the team. It’s only January, so don’t talk about it.
Pep Guardiola, who took charge of his 500th top-flight league game this lunch, spoke to BT Sport. “It’s a great scenario to make this milestone! I’d prefer it to be at the Etihad, but it’s OK! Old Trafford is OK! We’ve won a lot of games. We’ve had fun, and we want to do it again. You can’t always win. But you can do it. You do everything you can to try to qualify. You have to play your best every game. United have a good form. A good run of results. They are proactive, not just reactive. They have good build-ups. They are a complete team. I feel United are back. I Always feel favourites, but you have to prove it, and I have a lot of respect for United. Hopefully United will have a lot of respect for us.
Manchester United have made three changes to their last Premier League starting XI. Of the squad named for the 3-0 home win over Bournemouth, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire drop to the bench, while Donnie van de Beek is out for the season with a knee injury. Raphael Varane, Tyrell Malacia and Fred step up.
Manchester City made two changes to the XI that won 1-0 against Chelsea. There are Manuel Akanji and Riyad Mahrez; Ilkay Gundogan drops to the bench as John Stones is injured.
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Shaw, Malacia, Eriksen, Casemiro, Fred, Fernandes, Martial, Rashford.
Subs: Heaton, Lindelof, Maguire, Martinez, McTominay, Mainoo, Antony, Elanga, Garnacho.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Akanji, Ake, Cancelo, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Mahrez, Foden, Haaland.
Subs: Ortega Moreno, Phillips, Gundogan, Grealish, Laporte, Alvarez, Gomez, Palmer, Lewis.
Just 104 days ago in October, City won the Manchester derby 6–3A scoreline that seriously flattered a scrappy United. But after handing them their trousers freshly washed, pressed and neatly tucked into high hats, Erik ten Haag’s side got their act together big time. Of the 18 games played in all competitions since that humiliation, 15 have been won, and only one lost. They are currently on an eight-match winning streak, boasting an excellent record since domestic football resumed after the World Cup. The tail round is above Old Trafford Way.
After the sensational victory, City has not been so comfortable. In a growing streak of uncharacteristic mediocrity, they have lost at home to Brentford, been held at home by Everton, and knocked out of the League Cup at Southampton. They are five points adrift of Arsenal at the top of the league, hardly an insurmountable gap for a team of City’s usual talent… The only problem is that City are not playing at their usual best at the moment. And so, for the first time in a long time, they go into a derby a little unsure of themselves, with Pep Guardiola admitting that a repeat of their performance at St Mary’s will cause real problems against an in-form United.
Then again, City did surprisingly well in the first half of their FA Cup tie against Chelsea. A reminder of how destructive they are when they click. And while United are on an upward trend, they are still very much in progress, with the Ten Hag era still in its infancy, with his team benefiting from a fairly favorable run of fixtures. City, smarting from their midweek defeat and desperate to stay on Arsenal’s tail, could provide a painful reality check.
All of that is a long-winded way that you can make a case for both sides. So call it good luck! A second consecutive nine-goal tie is unlikely … but wouldn’t it be great? Kick off is at 12.30pm GMT. It’s active!