Pep Guardiola’s men moved top of their Champions League group with a 4-1 win over Club Brugge but the Catalan faces a selection dilemma today
Who knows which Manchester City will turn up at Old Trafford on today?
If it’s the brilliantly creative side that tore into Club Brugge in the second half of Wednesday night’s 4-1 Champions League victory at the Etihad, then a repeat of Manchester United’s humiliation at the hands of Liverpool could be repeated.
But if it’s the side that laboured to create opportunities in the first half and looked vulnerable to the Belgian side’s counterattacks, then under-pressure Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could continue his record of winning more games against Pep Guardiola than he’s lost.
A fortnight ago, the City boss must have watched Jurgen Klopp mastermind a dominant 5-0 destruction at Old Trafford and been counting down the days to his own visit.
In the days that followed, however, the Premier League champions have lost some of their sparkle and fallen behind in this season’s title race as a result.
Back-to-back blanks in a Carabao Cup defeat to West Ham and a home loss to Crystal Palace have damaged their early-season confidence.
The opening period against Brugge continued in the same fashion; it was only in the final half hour, when they cut loose, that the old swagger started to return.
It has left Guardiola with a few selection dilemmas going into the weekend – primarily in attack.
The Catalan must decide which players are most likely to take their chances, given United are likely to revert to a more defensive approach and play on the break – tactics which have served them well in recent derbies.
It will not be an easy call, given his forwards’ fluctuating form.
Raheem Sterling has been desperate to get the chance to make an impact and he buzzed around dangerously against Brugge after coming on as a 69th-minute substitute.
The England international almost scored with his first slaloming run until Ilkay Gundogan took a shot off him before then tapping home his first goal since August.
Meanwhile, Jack Grealish had another frustrating night and was shut down successfully until he was replaced by Gabriel Jesus, who scored with the final touch of the game.
Kevin De Bruyne was also left out of the starting line-up after a mixed start to the season.
Behind them, John Stones will come back in for just his second Premier League start of the season due to Aymeric Laporte’s suspension and will hope for better luck than he had against Brugge, with the centre-half gifting the visitors a 17th-minute equaliser when the ball deflected in off his head for an own goal.
The defence still looks vulnerable to long balls, which is particularly worrying going into today’s game, as United duo Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have exploited City’s high line in the past.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will, of course, be hoping that he can get a positive result in the derby to ease the pressure that has been building on the United manager in recent weeks.
United will go into this massive game boosted by Cristiano Ronaldo’s midweek heroics – just as they did when they hosted Liverpool a couple of weeks ago.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s double in Tuesday’s draw at Atalanta means United’s Champions League destiny remains in their own hands, while at the same time partially deflecting attention away from what was yet another dismal performance.— goal.com