As I’m very sure you’re very aware, the second Manchester Derby of the season takes place tonight as City visit United for the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final. United come into this one with home advantage, and a slight psychological advantage having gotten the better of their rivals in the league a month or so ago.
This pairing means that Manchester’s domination on the League Cup continues – there’ll be a club from the City of Manchester in the final for the fifth straight year, and the Manchester club has won the cup in each of those previous four seasons. City won the cup in 2016, 2018 and 2019 – while United won it 2017.
As mentioned above, United went to the Etihad Stadium and beat their rivals 2-1 back in December in a game that yielded one of the best performances yet from Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Manchester United team. Ahead of the game, the two managers have been full of praise for one another.
“In a derby it’s all about the atmosphere and the adrenaline,” said Solksjaer. “I admire Pep, they’ve raised the bar so much it’s something to aim for. They’re back winning games and confident, but form goes out of the window in a Manchester derby.”
Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola, was equally full of praise for Solksjaer’s side – telling press how the loss last month wasn’t a concern for him, but he had learned a thing or two about the Norwegian’s side.
“The game we lost here in the league we played one of the best first halves,” said the Spaniard. “We played incredible, but played 10 or 15 minutes bad in the second half and they recovered. We conceded a few counter-attacks and in just two or three seconds they were in the box. We saw how fast they are, how they run on the counter-attack, how solid and how aggressive.
“A top club like United you can lose, but we beat them more times than we lose.”
City have picked up all three points six times in their last nine visits to Old Trafford, drawing once and losing the other two. That’s one more win than they managed in the previous 39 trips to the other side of Manchester – which demonstrates just how drastic the transition has been in the north west in the last decade or so.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Manchester City have finished above United in the Premier League every single time of asking. In fact, this competition is the only competition where United have possibly had any success against City. United are still the last team to actually beat City in this competition – Guardiola’s side have been unbeaten in the Carabao Cup (won 11, drawn four) since United dumped them out in the fourth round back in the 2016-17 season.
Tonight, Pep will have central defender Nicolas Otamendi back in the squad and available for selection – but the Spaniard said he will likely rest one or two players. Meanwhile, Solksjaer is still waiting to know whether or not he will have all of Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw Jesse Lingard and Harry Maguire – who will all undergo last minute fitness tests.
Manchester Derby’s are always fiery, unpredictable affairs.