The first Manchester derby this season will unfold in front of the Sky cameras this Sunday – but how do the teams shape up going into the showdown?
The 188th meeting between the rivals kicks off Super Sunday this weekend, with hosts Manchester City unbeaten in 19 Premier League games – dating back to a 3-2 home defeat against Tottenham in February.
Meanwhile, Manchester United’s current run of four successive league wins is their longest since April 2021 – a five-game winning streak that included a 2-0 win at the Etihad.
The fact both teams are in good form should come as no surprise – only Chelsea’s summer spending exceeded the £227m outlay at Old Trafford and, in Erling Haaland, City have a striker whose current strike-rate would see him end the season with 59 Premier League goals.
It’s quite possible that the combined cost of their starting line-ups this weekend will exceed £1bn.
The bragging rights held by the blue half of Manchester since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement over nine years ago is well documented. Despite winning only three major trophies to City’s 12 in that period, as well as finishing an average of 17 points behind their local rivals, United have spent more money on new signings than the reigning champions.
Form teams go toe-to-toe
While a top-four finish is the likely aim for Erik Ten Hag in his inaugural season in England, a fourth win in six league visits to the Etihad would go a long way to cementing United’s radical improvement after a calamitous opening couple of weeks to the current campaign.
However, City’s form in front of their own supporters since drawing with Liverpool in April has been irresistible.
Pep Guardiola’s team have scored three or more goals in each of their recent seven home wins, the first time they have done so in their top-division history, and are only the second team to do so in the Premier League era – after United between December 2009 and March 2010.
The Citizens have scored 14 goals in their opening three Premier League home games, the joint-most by any team in the competition’s history – along with themselves in 2019/20, United in 2011/12 and Arsenal in 2009/10 – but none of those teams proceeded to lift the Premier League trophy in those seasons.
If that is seen as a slightly negative omen for City, a positive one for Sunday’s visitors is that a win would see them make an identical start to their last title-winning season in 2012/13 (five wins and two defeats from their opening seven games).
After sobering defeats against Brighton and Brentford left Ten Hag’s team bottom of the table after their first two fixtures, their subsequent four-game winning run has seen a notable change in approach. While having less of the ball, the Dutchman’s side are being more direct when in possession, attempting more tackles and covering significantly more distance.
They have sat much deeper in their last four games than they did in those opening two defeats:
If United’s impressive run is to continue on Sunday, then their ability to deal with Erling Haaland’s insatiable form in from of goal will be vital.
The Norwegian has scored 14 goals in his 10 appearances for City, including scoring in each of his last seven (12 goals in total). He has left with the match-ball in the last two Premier League home games – scoring hat-tricks against both Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest.
His goal in the 3-0 win at Wolves before the international break saw him become the first player in Premier League history to score 11 goals in their first seven appearances in the competition. The former Dortmund man has an outstanding return this season in relation to his touches per goal – so far it is significantly higher than any player in Premier League history (since Opta started recording data in 2010).
Of course, City’s threat goes beyond their marquee summer signing: Kevin Bruyne has more assists (five) and chances created (25) than any other player in the division this term. In Rodri, Ruben Dias, Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo, City have the top four players for completed passes in the Premier League.
United have made a habit of upsetting the odds when making the short trip to the east of the city, winning three of their last four visits in all competitions:
No fixture in Premier League history has seen more away wins (21, along with Aston Villa vs Liverpool), while City’s eight Premier League wins at Old Trafford is more than any other team, and United are the only team to win more Premier League games at the Etihad than they have lost.
Another win on enemy soil this Sunday would see United move just two points behind their hosts in the table – surely a statement that they are, at very least, top-four contenders.
With such a striking similarity in their spending powers in recent years, there would be no better platform for the 13-time Premier League champions to put their money where their mouth is.