Good evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's HUGE Manchester derby between United and City at Old Trafford!
This could prove to be the most pivotal match of the season so far - at least at the top end - with both sides needing victory for their own ends tonight. United will be demanding a response to Sunday and need a win to get their top-four hopes back on track, while only three points will do for City too as they look to retain control of a thrilling, topsy-turvy title race.
We will take a closer look at both sides in a short while, but let's start by checking out the team news...
MAN UTD STARTING XI:
De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Young; Fred, Pereira, Pogba; Lingard; Rashford
SUBS: Romero, Dalot, Mata, Matic, Sanchez, Lukaku, Martial
MAN CITY STARTING XI:
Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Zinchenko; Fernandinho, Gundogan, Silva; Bernardo, Sterling, Aguero
SUBS: Muric, Danilo, Sane, Mahrez, Otamendi, Jesus, Foden
Two interesting team selections there, so let's start with the hosts as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
, as expected, makes changes from the side that was so comfortably beaten by Everton on Sunday.
Indeed, it looks like it may even be a change of formation for the home side tonight, with Darmian, Shaw and Young all selected - hinting at a possible back five or Young in a more advanced midfield position.
Shaw is one of the more notable inclusions as he returns from a three-match absence due to suspensions both domestically and in Europe, replacing Diogo Dalot at left-back as he drops to the bench.
Phil Jones is also absent from the defence after being forced off at half time against Everton, with his place being taken by Darmian, who is a surprise inclusion against such a potent Man City attack considering how little he has played this season.
There are also interesting picks from Solskjaer in midfield as Andreas Pereira is given a rare start while Fred keeps his place despite being criticised for his performance against Everton.
Nemanja Matic is one of those to drop out of the side to make room for Pereira, while Pogba - who was directly involved in 16 goals from his first 14 games under Solskjaer but has since managed just two penalties in his subsequent nine - completes the midfield.
Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial both drop out of the starting XI from the defeat to Everton following ineffectual displays up front, leaving Marcus Rashford to lead the line alone tonight. Jesse Lingard will be up there in support of the England international as he comes back into the side, with Sanchez alongside Lukaku, Martial and Mata on the bench should United need attacking reinforcements at any stage.
It is not exactly an XI which will strike fear into the hearts of Man City, though, whereas the champions - as ever - field a very strong team for what is a must-win match in the title race. Kevin De Bruyne is the only high-profile absentee for Pep Guardiola
following the injury he sustained against Tottenham Hotspur. David Silva comes back into the starting lineup to ensure that City do not lose much quality in the middle of the park.
Silva's return is one of three changes made to the side that scraped past Spurs at the weekend, and it is no surprise that all three of those see experienced players come back into the starting lineup. Captain Vincent Kompany, who has played such a big role in past derbies between these two, returns at the heart of the defence in place of Stones, while Fernandinho is back in defensive midfield as Gundogan switches to a more attacking midfield position.
Phil Foden is the man to miss out for Man City, which is perhaps harsh considering he got the only goal of the game against Spurs, but it was always likely to happen with these occasions favouring the players that have been there and done it all before. Elsewhere, Zinchenko continues at left-back with Mendy still absent, while Bernardo and Sterling - both of whom have been nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award - retain their places as Sane and Mahrez once again have to make do with a place on the bench.
Leading the line for the visitors tonight will be Sergio Aguero, who could make a few slices of history should he score. One goal would see him surpass Wayne Rooney as the Manchester derby's leading scorer in the Premier League era, and his current tally of eight is only two behind the individual record for a player against Manchester United
in the competition - currently held by Alan Shearer. Aguero could also emulate Shearer by becoming only the second player to score at least 20 Premier League goals in six different seasons, while doing so would also see him become the second player after Thierry Henry to do it five years in a row. On top of all that, Aguero needs just one goal to level Steven Gerrard as the highest-scoring opposition player at Old Trafford in the Premier League era.
It could be quite the night for Aguero and Man City, then, and the prospect of losing to their 'noisy neighbours' may be made a little more palatable for United fans considering it may well be the crucial result to prevent Liverpool from winning the Premier League title. Regardless of which team United fans want to lift the trophy, though, they need a win tonight for their own means following an alarming dip in form in recent weeks.
Four teams are still battling for two spots in the Champions League places, and as things stand United are losing that race. Solskjaer's side sit sixth in the table, three points off the top four with only four games of their season remaining. Victory tonight would see them move level on points with Chelsea - who currently occupy fourth spot - but Arsenal are also in action and so a win may still see United end the night in sixth place with all four teams then having played the same number of games.
Tottenham's late win over Brighton last night saw them open up a six-point lead to United, and a top-four spot is ultimately out of the Red Devils' hands - although as evidenced by the weekend just gone there is plenty of room for slip-ups from the teams involved. Chelsea were the only side to pick up any points over the weekend, and even they could only manage one at home to Burnley, with Spurs losing to Man City and Arsenal being beaten by Crystal Palace.
United's result was the worst of the lot, though, as Solskjaer's side turned in a shambolic display en route to a 4-0 humiliation at Goodison Park - their heaviest defeat in any competition since October 2016. The Red Devils have now lost six of their last eight games across all competitions - their worst run since 1989 - including the last two while conceding seven goals without reply. Another defeat tonight would make it three on the bounce for the first time since September 2016.
It is in stark contrast to the run of 14 wins from their first 17 outings under Solskjaer, which dragged them back into top-four contention and got them as far as the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Question have begun to be asked of the Norwegian during this slump, but it should be noted that here at Old Trafford they remain unbeaten in domestic action since his arrival despite losing their last five away games across all competitions - their worst such run since March 1981.
Indeed, United are unbeaten at home in the Premier League since August - a run of 14 games which includes nine wins. The problem has not been getting results here, but rather keeping clean sheets, with United managing just two at Old Trafford all term - the joint-lowest tally in the league along with Fulham. Indeed, their tally of 48 goals conceded is already their most in a league season since 1978-79, while their run of 11 games without a clean sheet home or away is their worst since 1998.
There are also problems at the other end and a blank tonight would see them fail to score in three successive games for the first time since October 2015. Time is running out for Solskjaer to turn things around again in the top-four race
, though, and with another home clash with Chelsea coming up at the weekend they may need a victory here to remain in contention. United have only ever lost one of their 13 Premier League home games against the defending champions, but that did come against Man City in April 2013.
A repeat of that tonight could set Man City on a clear path to retain the Premier League title, with this match viewed by most as the last big challenge for the champions to overcome. Pep Guardiola
's side must still face Burnley away, Leicester at home and Brighton away after this game, but on paper at least it looks as though if they are to drop any points, then they are most likely to come here. For one night only, Liverpool fans will be supporting Manchester United!
Everything is ultimately in Man City's hands, though; if they win all of their remaining games then they will win the title with 98 points - meaning Liverpool could potentially miss out with a whopping 97. Doing so would see them become the first team to finish a top-flight campaign with 14 successive victories, but there is no margin for error in this title race and anything other than a win tonight would hand control of this fascinating title race back to Liverpool.
City have continued to set a remarkable standard after their record-breaking century of points last season, and while recent matches have not seen them necessarily at their free-flowing best, they have continued to rack up the wins with 10 in a row ahead of this one - their second-longest run under Guardiola behind only the 18-match run last term. The latest of those was Saturday's 1-0 win over Spurs, during which they survived a few scares before coming away with another crucial victory.
Spurs were, of course, the same team that knocked Man City out of the Champions League and ended their hopes of a quadruple, but they could still salvage a domestic treble this season which, while perhaps not being as prestigious as United's treble 20 years ago, would still be an incredible achievement. City have already secured the EFL Cup, of course, and will take on Watford in the FA Cup final next month.
Any weaknesses in this Man City form have to be viewed in context, but one concern for Guardiola may be that three of his side's final four matches come away from home, where they have dropped 13 points this season compared to only three in front of their own fans. City have won their last four league games on the road, conceding just once in the process, but United do seem to have more of a chance here than they would at the Etihad Stadium.
Nonetheless, it is difficult to regard Man City as anything other than favourites in almost any match they go into at the moment, and they could make some more history tonight. Guardiola's side have already scored a whopping 155 goals across all competitions this season, leaving them just one short of the all-time record for an English side in a single season - set by City themselves in 2013-14.
It is also interesting to note that Man City have won at Old Trafford in all three seasons that they have been crowned Premier League champions - including a 6-1 drubbing in 2011-12. Guardiola, meanwhile, is one of only two managers to have won his first two Premier League visits to Old Trafford and could become the first visiting boss to win three games in a row at the home of United.
This is such an intriguing contest tonight - not only is it a derby, but it pits two sides who desperately need a win against each other and there is the added sub-plot that a United win or draw could help their arch-rivals Liverpool to win the title. United will be demanding a response to Sunday, and they simply have to be better than they were at Goodison, but they are in poor form at the moment whereas Man City just keep on winning.
SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Man Utd 2-3 Man City
Man City have an impress record at Old Trafford in recent years, winning five and losing just one of their last seven league visits to the 'Theatre of Dreams' - including two wins already for Pep Guardiola. It is a vast improvement on just one win from their first 14 visits, and now no visiting team in Premier League history has won more games at Old Trafford than Man City, who are level with Chelsea on six.
The corresponding fixture last season saw David Silva and Otamendi both get on the scoresheet either side of a Rashford equaliser, while the reverse fixture this term also saw Man City emerge victorious. Silva was again on the scoresheet, alongside Aguero and Gundogan, as Man City ran out 3-1 winners at the Etihad Stadium in November.
Another bad omen for United is that this is only the seventh previous Premier League Manchester derby to have taken place on a day other than Saturday or Sunday - and United are winless in the last five. There was a big win for them in the first - a 5-0 triumph in November 1994 - but since then they have drawn two and lost three.
Right, kickoff is just a few moments away now, so let's have a quick reminder of the team news before we get started...
MAN UTD STARTING XI: De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Young; Fred, Pereira, Pogba; Lingard; Rashford
MAN CITY STARTING XI: Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Zinchenko; Fernandinho, Gundogan, Silva; Bernardo, Sterling, Aguero
KICKOFF: Here we go! A massive match gets underway at Old Trafford as Sergio Aguero kicks us off!
United make their first thrust forward as Shaw drives forward from left wing-back and tries to play a pass in behind for Rashford, but he puts too much on it and Ederson comes out to collect.
United have started with the sort of fire Solskjaer would have expected in the opening minutes here, looking to press high and get forward quickly. City have the ability to play through that press, though.
Silva chops down Pereira on the halfway line and the United midfielder gives him an earful - clearly not showing the veteran playmaker too much respect! Both teams seem fired up for this one!
Good play from Pogba as he spins away from two men and tries to release Rashford. His pass is cut out by Kompany, but it was good work to get out of a tight situation.
Really good pressing from United are Lingard forces Kompany to put the ball out for a throw-in deep inside his own half. Ederson's pass did not help his captain out.
YELLOW CARD! An early yellow card for Kompany here as he blocks off Rashford to prevent a quick one-two. Cynical from the City skipper, and he can have no complaints.
SAVE! It is United who are on top right now! They keep City pinned back with a period of sustained pressure and Pogba eventually picks up the ball on the left before cutting inside and firing an ambitious effort towards goal which Ederson collects.
Man City have been nowhere near their best in these opening stages. They have sent a few passes straight out of play and seem to be struggling to deal with this quick United start - although still no chances to speak of.
UPDATE: More good news for United to build on their quick start here as Ruben Neves has given Wolves the lead against Arsenal with a fine free kick.
SAVE! The first save for De Gea to make as Sterling cuts inside and shoots towards goal - a shot which looks simple for De Gea until Smalling changes the direction of it. The United defender did just enough to take the sting off it too, though, allowing De Gea to change direction and make the save.
SHOT! Fred tries his luck with a swerving strike from range and he catches it well, but it flies a couple of yards wide of the target.
CHANCE! What a goal this would have been! Pogba pings a beauty of a pass over the shoulder of Laporte for Lingard, who has to take his volley first time and makes good contact, but floats his effort wide of the far post. It was a decent effort under difficult circumstances, but the accuracy was just off.
SAVE! Good football for City to tee up Bernardo, who puts his laces through the ball from 25 yards out and gets a really good connection on the ball. It flies towards goal, but De Gea beats it away.
United break forward immediately and Lingard plays the ball through for Rashford, who again gets behind the defence with his pace but is thwarted by Ederson, who races off his line to get to the ball first.
UPDATE: Arsenal's away day blues look to be coming back to haunt them as Doherty has just doubled Wolves' lead at Molineux!
SHOT! Rashford has been the danger man for United tonight and here he tries his luck from all of 30 yards out - maybe more. His strike is dipping, but not fast enough as it flies a couple of yards over the bar.
YELLOW CARD! Pereira becomes the first United man in the book tonight for a crunching challenge on Zinchenko.
An action-packed few seconds at either end - an example of the frenetic pace this match is being played at so far...
YELLOW CARD! Zinchenko joins Kompany and Pereira in the book for two fouls in quick succession - first on Young and then clattering into Rashford.
Brilliant defending from the resulting free kick as Fernandinho, at full stretch, clears Young's dangerous delivery with Rashford lurking behind him.
This opening half an hour has flown by, despite neither side really creating a clear chance so far. We have been largely limited to long-range shots so far, but it has been an engrossing affair.
UPDATE: It is turning into a nightmare for Arsenal as they now trail Wolves 3-0 before half time at Molineux! Diogo Jota has added the third!
Man City are just beginning to see more of the ball now and they are turning the screw a bit, with United struggling to get out of their own half at the moment.
A long spell of Man City possession ends with Fernandinho lifting a pass over the defence for Sterling, but his touch lets him down in a position from which he has been so deadly this season.
Man City have certainly grown into this game more since the half-hour mark, and they are beginning to look more and more ominous. A big seven minutes awaits before the end of the first half!
Five minutes left until half time now, and still this one is just bubbling under the surface. It has been an absorbing contest so far despite not really catching fire just yet.
United float a free kick into the box which Ederson comes to claim, and for it moment it looks like he spills it, but he quickly gathers at the second attempt.
CHANCE! The first big chance of the night falls to Man City! It is a lovely move involving Silva, Bernardo and Aguero in and around the box. Aguero eventually tees up Sterling, who keeps his composure amid a crowd of bodies inside the area before finally getting his shot away. De Gea gets down smartly to make the save, though, and crucially holds on to it with Aguero lurking.
SHOT! Pogba has his pocket picked in midfield and Bernardo immediately gives it to Silva, who in turn helps it on to Aguero. The striker tries to pick out the bottom far corner, but drags his effort wide.
There will be two minutes of added time at the end of this first half.
The home crowd are not happy with the United players here as they kick the ball out while a Man City player is down on the ground, halting their attack in the process.
HALF TIME: MAN UTD 0-0 MAN CITY
A goalless first half comes to an end in the Manchester derby, then, and this pivotal clash remains balanced on a knife edge after an intriguing opening 45 minutes.
United started brightly and were on top for the first half of the half, but City then began to grow into it and looked more and more dangerous as the half wore on.
It was Man City who created the best chance of the half right on the stroke of the break, with Raheem Sterling showing great feet inside the area but then not getting enough on his finish to squeeze it past De Gea.
It was lovely football from City to tee up the chance as Aguero, Silva and Bernardo were all involved, but De Gea crucially held on to the ball to prevent Aguero from having a sniff of a rebound.
Aside from that the two sides have been largely limited to long-range efforts so far tonight, with Pogba, Rashford and Fred all trying their luck for United during their spell on top.
Man City have also forced saves from De Gea through Bernardo and a deflected Sterling strike, but it wasn't until the chance right at the end of the half that either side carved out a really good opening.
KICKOFF: Manchester United get us back underway for the second half!
Almost a sniff of goal for United as Pogba exchanges passes with Rashford on the edge of the box, but Fernandinho is across to make a crucial challenge just when it looked as though Pogba might pull the trigger.
Fernandinho seems to have picked up an injury while making that challenge, and he goes down holding his knee here. The Brazilian's night may be over, which would be a big blow for City.
MAN CITY SUB:
Sure enough there is the change as Fernandinho is replaced by Leroy Sane
, which will see Gundogan go to holding midfield and Bernardo drop deeper.
Sane almost makes an immediate impact as Gundogan dinks a ball over to Sane, who tees it up for the sub. The German tries to fire the ball across the face of goal, but Lindelof cuts it out inside his own six-yard box.
GOAL! MAN UTD 0-1 MAN CITY (BERNARDO SILVA)
GOAL! Huge, huge goal in the Premier League title race, and it is Bernardo Silva who steps up to the plate for City again! Bernardo cuts inside from the right channel and takes his shot early, squeezing his finish in at the near post. It all looked a little too easy, but Bernardo took it really early and that took De Gea by surprise at the near post.
OFF THE POST! Man City almost put the game beyond United in the space of two minutes. Another slick passing move sees Silva tee up Aguero, who curls an effort towards the bottom corner but sees it clip the outside of the post on its way behind.
CHANCE! What a chance for United to level things up almost immediately! A poor piece of play from Walker gifts the ball to Rashford on the byline and he fires it across goal. Kompany wildly swings at the ball when trying to clear it and, while he doesn't connect, it may just be enough to put off Lingard, who completely misses the ball with an open goal gaping!
That goal has really opened things up now, and I would be surprised if that was the last we see tonight. United have little choice but to throw caution to the wind a little, but that in turn will open things up more for Man City's attack too.
Here is that opening goal as United win a free kick in a dangerous position...
Pogba takes on the free kick duties, but fires it straight into the wall.
UPDATE: Sokratis has pulled a goal back for Arsenal at Molineux to make it 3-1, but it is surely too little too late with 10 minutes remaining in that one.
GOAL! MAN UTD 0-2 MAN CITY (LEROY SANE)
GOAL! That could well be game over, and a massive stride towards the Premier League title for Man City as Leroy Sane doubles their advantage. De Gea's role was suspect for the first goal, but this is a really poor effort from the keeper. Sane puts plenty of power behind his effort, but it is almost straight at the keeper and he can only help to deflect it into his own net. Another high-profile error from De Gea!
A new record for this incredible Man City team...
Just 20 minutes remaining in this match now and it would take some turnaround from United to salvage anything from this one. They did it in last season's derby at the Etihad, but they needed a full half for that.
MAN UTD SUB: Change for United as Pereira is replaced by Romelu Lukaku.
Here is that second goal, complete with the type of De Gea howler we have seen more often this season than ever before...
Lukaku looks to make a quick impact by earning a yard on his right before firing a low ball across goal. Ederson parries it out and Lingard is there, but he can only nudge it wide.
CHANCE! United are still pushing for a goal back here and Rashford picks up the ball on the edge of the area before cutting back on himself and playing it square for Lukaku. The Belgian goes for goal first time, but gets it all wrong and scuffs his effort well wide.
Just 11 more minutes for Man City to hold out and they will be level on games with Liverpool and a point clear of their title rivals. This would be a huge, huge win for them, and would no doubt deal a massive psychological blow to Liverpool.
Poor from Shaw as he falls right into Sterling's trap to concede a free kick in a crossing position. The clock ticks down that bit more for the champions.
MAN UTD SUBS: A double change for United in one final throw of the dice as Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez replace Lingard and Darmian.
Pogba tries to dink a pass into the defence, but it is between Rashford and Sanchez and Ederson comes out to claim it. The United players don't exactly look full of belief right now.
It is all about game management now for Man City, and they are just knocking the ball about amongst themselves here. This is a huge statement of their title credentials tonight, and Liverpool must now rely on a big upset in the final three games.
YELLOW CARD! Shaw picks up a late yellow for a tactical foul on Gundogan.
MAN CITY SUBS: A double change for Man City as Gabriel Jesus and Danilo replace Gundogan and Aguero.
There will be four minutes of added time at the end of this match.
FULL TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 0-2 MANCHESTER CITY
The destiny of the Premier League title remains in Manchester City's hands with just three games of the season remaining as Pep Guardiola's champions run out 2-0 winners in the derby at Old Trafford - another serious statement of their credentials. goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane were enough to fire City back to the top of the table, now a point clear of Liverpool, and if they win their final three games of the season then the trophy will be theirs once again. It is a huge night in the title race.
Right, that is all we have time for this evening!
Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's match as Man City take a huge step towards retaining the Premier League title with a 2-0 victory at Manchester United. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.
From me, though, it is goodbye for now!