Everything that you need to know ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby:
(1) Thursday’s 3-0 win over Derby County runs Manchester United’s unbeaten streak to nine matches. Luke Shaw opened the scoring at Pride Park and Odion Ighalo added a brace to seal United’s passage into the FA Cup quarter-finals.
(2) All in all, it was a simple outing for the Reds. In fact, the biggest concern came before kickoff — when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed a Harry Maguire knock that may sideline him this weekend.
He rolled over on his ankle. I wasn’t going to rest him today, but it’s one of those things that happens in training and we had a few out today. I think he’ll be alright. He’ll be fine.
(3) As Ole mentioned above, Maguire wasn’t the only absence on Thursday night:
There are a couple of players who are getting the chance to stake a claim for the derby because I’m not sure if Harry [Maguire], Dan [James], or Aaron [Wan-Bissaka] are going to be available.
(4) Despite some overly-optimistic reports that Paul Pogba would be returning to training this week at Carrington, the club’s star midfielder remains out of action. The latest rumors have him training with the first team next week, but that delay rules him out of this weekend’s derby — and makes an appearance in the crucial trip to Tottenham Hotspur on March 15 a virtual impossibility.
Pogba is back in full training next week. Should be available by the end of the month.— James Robson (@jamesrobsonES) March 4, 2020
Let’s see if he gets back on the pitch for United. Don’t think anyone can say with any certainty he will this season #mufc
(5) Manchester United coped well enough without Maguire and AWB against a mediocre Derby County side, but now face a far more dangerous attack in Pep Guardiola’s Blues. On the bright side, the United defense has emerged as the story of 2020 — with only two goals allowed in their last nine matches (including seven clean sheets).
Man Utd have averaged 0.57 goals conceded per game since the start of 2020.— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 5, 2020
(6) Manchester United have already beaten their crosstown rivals twice this season — both times at the Etihad. Sandwiched in between those results, though, City handed the Reds a 3-1 thumping at Old Trafford in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinals. Will the 2019/20 derby trend of winning on the road continue this weekend? Let’s hope not.
(7) It’s been a rollercoaster month for Manchester City. They completed their Carabao Cup three-peat last weekend, but were unceremoniously leveled with a two-year ban from Europe for FFP infractions in February. With City in second place in the Premier League, that punishment opens the door for Manchester United to qualify for the Champions League from the fifth spot.
(8) Manchester City enter the derby on a five-game winning streak (in all comps), which Pep Guardiola thinks will put his side in a good frame of mind:
It’s better to go there winning games. Better to go there in the FA Cup, rather than out. Tomorrow, we will watch United vs. Derby and see what they have done in the last games, then we will go there to try and play well and try to win.
(9) On Wednesday, Manchester City knocked out Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 in the FA Cup. It was a thoroughly dominating performance from the visitors everywhere but the scoreboard. City held their Championship opposition without a shot on goal and just 20% possession. Guardiola named a fairly strong side — including Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, David Silva, and Nicolas Otamendi in the starting eleven.
(10) One name missing from the lineup was Phil Foden. The 19-year-old starlet dazzled at Wembley over the weekend, picking up man-of-the-match honors in City’s Carabao Cup triumph. Foden’s absence at Hillsborough has raised expectations that the youngster could play a large role in Sunday’s derby.
Phil Foden truly is a special young player. Yes, plenty to learn etc, still only 19, but already such a talent. Touch, composure and some of his passing, the timing of release and weight, exceptional. Has to go to the Euros. #mcfc #eng— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) March 1, 2020
(11) On Wednesday, Guardiola updated the media on the injured Kevin De Bruyne:
Kevin [De Bruyne] had a shoulder problem and was not fit. In the last minutes [of the Carabao Cup final], he fell down in a bad position and had a problem. We don’t know how long, hopefully not much.