For the first time since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United are favourites to win the derby.
The last five league matches at Old Trafford have seen Man United pick up maximum points whilst an ailing Man City side have only mustered 4 points from a possible 15 on the road. The visitors find themselves toiling in 4th spot despite being classified by some as part of a two horse race for the title.
After a season of chopping and changing at Man United, Louis van Gaal can finally assemble a settled and increasingly potent starting eleven to drive the onslaught that inevitably awaits Pellegrini’s men on Sunday.
The FA cup defeat to Arsenal in early March sparked initial disappointment for those involved, but quickly roused a fresh sort of drive and desire that led to a first half blitzkrieg against Spurs, a strangely easy Anfield win and a patient but assured success over Aston Villa.
Sometimes it takes a setback to galvanise a group of players, and it seems like losing at the hands of a Danny Welbeck goal has uncovered a new level of aggression and austerity within the Man United side.
Man City can be confident prior to this encounter regardless of recent paltry away displays. They haven’t lost at the Theatre of Dreams since February 2011 and boast a group of players already adjusted to the acrimonious closing stages of a Premier League season following their late charge towards the title at the expense of Liverpool last term.
Nobody should get overconfident ahead of this clash. When this team clicks, very few can get near them. Louis van Gaal has to ensure the visitors don’t settle into the match early on; met by a wave of incessant Old Trafford noise, relentless sieges from an in-form attacking unit and lots of Fellaini elbows, the champions could cave in.
Chris Smalling (illness) and Luke Shaw (injury) could return after being absent for last Saturday’s win, with the former being more likely to feature. Robin van Persie returned to training this week but is unlikely to play a part this weekend due to lack of fitness. Jonny Evans still has two games left to serve for his suspension.
Wilfried Bony may not recover from an ankle injury in time for Sunday. Vincent Kompany is also a doubt after picking up a thigh strain during the week. Manuel Pellegrini has a fully fit squad aside from those two.
Manchester excitedly waits. Old Trafford expects. The biggest game of the season has arrived at the perfect time for Man United, who can establish a four point gap between themselves and their noisy neighbours if they replicate the form they have shown in their last three matches.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-0 Manchester City