38 min: City carve out their first gilt-edged chance of the match. De Bruyne, just to the right of the D, pitching wedges a delightful cross towards Jesus, who dives to meet it with his head on the penalty spot. He should at least get his header on target, but it sails harmlessly wide left. What a ball by De Bruyne, though, and a reminder that, for all their early sass, United haven’t got the win locked down yet.
36 min: James rolls a cross along the corridor of uncertainty from the right. Had Martial really stretched for that, he’d have poked home. But as it is, the ball sails off out of play on the left. Another huge chance for United, who are ripping City’s back line apart with ease. Will they live to rue all these missed opportunities?
35 min: De Bruyne finds Walker with a lovely sliderule pass down the right wing. Walker fizzes a low cross into the box but there’s nobody in blue taking a chance, and it’s an easy claim for De Gea.
34 min: A bit of space for David Silva, 30 yards from goal. He’s inexplicably allowed to make it to the edge of the box, where he lashes a shot goalwards. Fortunately for United, it’s straight at De Gea.
33 min: Bernardo Silva cuts in from the right and has a dig from the edge of the box. His effort slaps McTominay in the chest. United clear. Sterling comes back at the visitors down the left, but he can’t get past Wan-Bissaka. Frowns on City faces right now.
31 min: On the touchline, Pep Guardiola looks utterly stunned. And no wonder, his team are being ripped to shreds here. United could easily be five or six up! Higher up in the stand, a certain knight of the realm allows a warm smile of satisfaction to play across his face. And the United fans are extremely vocal in their support of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
GOAL! Manchester City 0-2 Manchester United (Martial 29)
James and Martial combine at speed down the right. Martial spins on the edge of the area, just to the right of the D, and threads a shot into the bottom right, past the outstretched fingers of Ederson. To repeat: this is no more than United deserve. City need to wake up and quick.
28 min: This is a quite sensational United performance. They look dangerous every time they cross the halfway line. City are a ragged rabble!
27 min: United should be three or four goals up here. James makes good down the right and cuts back for Rashford, who tries to guide a curler into the top right. The ball clips the top of the bar with Ederson beaten all ends up.
25 min: Martial is sent wheeching down the right. He knocks the ball towards Rashford, just inside the box, coming in from the left. Rashford has time to take a touch, but with Ederson off his line, attempts a first-touch curler around the keeper and into the bottom right. His effort is well wide.
24 min: Guardiola has a full and frank exchange of views with the fourth official. Meanwhile, Bernardo Silva tries to repair the damage by dribbling down the right and entering the box. His shot is deflected out for a corner, from which nothing occurs.
GOAL! Manchester City 0-1 Manchester United (Rashford 23 pen)
Rashford stutters, sends Ederson one way, then passes the ball into the bottom right. This goal had been coming. United deserve their lead.
22 min: Bernardo Silva is also livid at the decision, and talks his way into the book.
21 min: VAR intervenes, and it’s a penalty to United! Pep Guardiola is furious, but that was as clear a penalty as you’ll get. I have no idea why the referee said no in the first place.
20 min: Rashford squeezes between Bernardo Silva and Stones, into the box down the inside left. He goes over. It looks like a penalty, Silva coming across Rashford, sticking out a leg, clipping his knee. But the referee’s not interested!
18 min: Sterling wins a corner for City down the left. Nothing much happens, the ball sent sailing over everyone in the box. I suppose that qualifies as a lull, in the context of what’s gone before. This is non-stop fun.
16 min: City are shipping a large number of good chances. James is sent scampering down the right by Rashford, and pulls back for Martial, who shoots towards the bottom right. Ederson saves well. He’s earned his money today already.
14 min: United spring upfield from the Lindelof incident and nearly break clear. Fernandinho does well to intercept just as it looks like Martial will zip free down the right.
13 min: Bernardo Silva is sprung down the inside right channel and cuts the ball back. There’s a scramble on the spot, Jesus sliding in, and the ball hits Lindelof’s arm. But the referee says it’s accidental, and VAR agrees. It looks like the correct decision, there was little Lindelof could do, the ball kicked up to his arm from close range as he challenged.
11 min: “They will have to break out the oxygen tanks if this pace keeps up,” suggests Mary Waltz. “Electric.” It’s that, all right. City attempt to calm things down a little bit by passing and probing, probing and passing. They shift the ball this way and that, but United hold their shape and stay patient. Eventually the move peters out.
9 min: This match is absurdly entertaining. Rashford slips a ball down the inside left for Lingard, who shoots at Ederson from a tight angle. Ederson kicks away brilliantly in the style popularised by the man between the sticks up the other end.
8 min: Shaw swings a dangerous ball in from the left. Martial manages to handle with both hands in his attempt to chest down and turn on the penalty spot.
7 min: More space for James down the right. His cutback flies behind Rashford and Martial. City counter, Sterling dribbling at great speed down the left and cutting back for David Silva, who squirts a low shot across the face of goal and wide right.
6 min: Space for James out on the right. He chips a fine pass over the City back line in the hope of sending Martial clean through. Walker does exceptionally well to turn on the jets himself and get his body in between Martial and the ball. Danger over.
4 min: David Silva nearly releases Sterling down the inside left. McTominay intercepts sensationally, springing up after sliding to trap, then hooking clear. City want a penalty but the ball hit the midfielder’s chest as he slid.
3 min: City go straight up the other end and nearly score themselves, David Silva shooting from a tight angle on the left. His effort is blocked. This is very open. It certainly doesn’t look like a 0-0 in the making.
2 min: But it’s United who have the first chance of the game, and they probably should have scored. Martial romps into City territory and then Fred slips James free on the right. James is in an absurd amount of space, but shoots straight at Ederson.
1 min: A first touch for Harry Maguire, who having chosen red over blue this summer, gets pantomime pelters. And United struggle to get out of their final third in the opening exchanges, City stringing plenty of passes together as they briskly probe this way and that.
A quick blast of Blue Moon … and then we’re off! United get the ball rolling. “Call this a sheer gut shot, but I really like United’s chances in this match,” opines Hubert O’Hearn. “From a distance, I admire what Ole’s doing in building a squad with youth and I just think they’ll have a willingness to bleed on the pitch more than City who probably are more focused on Big Cup. I’m calling it 4-2 United. Onwards!”
The teams are out! The greatest thing about derbies? Both sets of teams get to wear the colours that made them famous. You don’t need me to tell you, but just for the sake of completion: City are in sky blue, United in red. In the tunnel beforehand, David de Gea and David Silva enjoyed a nice friendly catch-up. All smiles. So much for the two teams being sworn enemies. A pow-wow that won’t shift the dial on the Roy Keane-o-meter very far. Anyway, there’s a derby-day atmosphere inside the Etihad, and it’ll only get louder when we kick off in a minute.
Pep talks. “They have pace up front. So fast. They have a lot of quality, one against one. We know what they are going to try to do, so we have to try to control it. We will try to be clinical. It is special for our fans, but we have to be focused on what we are trying to do, we cannot be emotional. The battle will be with the players on the pitch, but of course our supporters will make it extra.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer talks to Sky. “You want as many good players on the pitch as possible, especially when you play a fantastic team like Man City. We know we will have to play our best to have the chance of a result. Luke Shaw is ready. He’s trained really well, and hopefully we will see the best of him. We would like to keep the ball. If you let City have it too much, they can out-football any team, they can football you to death. We will have to be good in our pressing and our defensive shape, but we want to keep the ball as well. We want to attack quickly. We must be confident but also humble. We are playing a fantastic side on their own ground.”
If the Manchester derby wasn’t big enough anyway, on its own merits, Liverpool have just won 3-0 at Bournemouth. The result puts them on 46 points, 11 clear of second-placed Leicester City, who go to midlands rivals Aston Villa tomorrow … and 14 clear of defending champions Manchester City in third place. City need a result tonight. But then United have their own agenda, and three points would take them into fifth spot, a little closer to the Champions League places after Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat at Everton. Plenty up for grabs.
City make one change to the team that ran out easy winners at Burnley on Tuesday night. John Stones takes the place of Nicolas Otamendi.
United make two changes to the side who saw off Tottenham Hotspur and Jose Mourinho on Wednesday. Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw replace Mason Greenwood and Ashley Young.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Jose Angelino, De Bruyne, Rodri, Silva, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Sterling.
Subs: Bravo, Gundogan, Mendy, Mahrez, Joao Cancelo, Otamendi, Foden.
Manchester United: de Gea, Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, James, Lingard, Rashford, Martial.
Subs: Mata, Andreas Pereira, Young, Romero, Greenwood, Tuanzebe, Williams.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
City have had the upper hand in the Manchester derby in recent years, there’s no denying it. They did the double over United in last year’s treble season. They’re on a current streak of three wins in a row at Old Trafford. They’ve recently dished out some memorable pastings: a 3-0, a 4-1, that 6-1. Tough times for United, traditionally the bosses of this rivalry, with 73 wins on the tally to City’s 53.
You’d expect title-chasing City to prevail again this evening. Especially as they’re coming off the back of that fine confidence-restoring performance at Burnley. United by comparison have only won nine of 22 matches in all competitions, and are still struggling for an identity under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But nothing’s ever that simple. For all their brilliance, City have been uncharacteristically inconsistent so far this season. Before the Burnley game, they’d only won one of their previous five matches. They’ve been beaten by struggling Norwich City. And they’ve already lost at home to Wolves.
United will take succour from that last result especially. Like Wolves, they can be devastating on the counter against teams who come at them, as Chelsea, Liverpool and Sheffield United can testify. City, we can confirm in some exclusive breaking news, will attack today. That may leave their makeshift defence vulnerable. Also, United won’t need reminding twice about the Paul Pogba game of April 2018, when United denied City the chance to finish their title procession with derby victory on home turf, coming back from two down at half-time to frustrate their hosts 3-2. There’s no reason why they can’t taste victory on enemy soil again.
Then again, United’s defence isn’t up to much either, and City could run riot. We’ll find out soon enough what it’s to be. Can United follow up their fine result against Tottenham by putting a serious dent in City’s three-peat title hopes? Or will City continue their recent derby form and pick up three points that may prove crucial in the hunting down of Liverpool and Leicester? It’s going to be fun finding out. It’s the 179th Manchester derby. It’s on!
Kick off: 5.30pm.