Everything that you need to know ahead of Sunday’s match:
(1) Some unpleasant reading for Manchester United fans: the Reds still have not scored a goal from open play against the Premier League Big Six in 2020/21. And, until United snap this barren run, expect to hear more and more about it from pot-stirring pundits. Bruno Fernandes, in particular, highlights the problem. An attacking virtuoso so often since his move to Manchester, Fernandes has scored only one goal (from the penalty spot) with no assists in seven matches against United’s top league rivals this season.
(2) To be fair, Manchester United are struggling to score goals against everyone at the moment. The Reds labored to a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace on Wednesday — and only managed to steer one shot on goal in a particularly lifeless display. Even the returning Edinson Cavani could not prevent the club’s third consecutive scoreless draw.
(3) A possible explanation for Manchester United’s recent downturn in form:
4/5 - Of the five Premier League players to have played the most minutes in all competitions in 2020-21, four play for Manchester United (Maguire, Wan-Bissaka, Rashford, Fernandes). Fatigue? pic.twitter.com/jbONmdjuKV— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 4, 2021
(4) Dean Henderson recorded his eighth clean sheet of the season on Wednesday and could be in line for an extended run in the side with David De Gea out due to “personal reasons”. There’s been nothing official from the club about the duration of DDG’s absence, but the Manchester Evening News is reporting that Henderson could remain between the sticks for the rest of the month.
(5) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on this weekend’s Manchester derby:
Of course, there’s extra spice when there’s a derby. And the little bit of frustration or disappointment or feeling sorry for themselves [after the Crystal Palace draw], that will come back to motivation and inspiration for the next game because when you play [Manchester City], you know that means a lot for us and that means a lot for the fans. We’re going to give everything.
(6) Manchester City are well clear at the top of the Premier League table and look dead certs to win their third league title in four years. Pep Guardiola’s side has won 21 matches in a row in all competitions — a mark coincidentally matched by Manchester United’s 21-game unbeaten run on the road. Something’s got to give on Sunday.
(7) City defeated Wolves 4-1 on Tuesday, but the West Midlands visitors at least made them sweat a little. Conor Coady’s goal shortly after the hour mark knotted the score at one, before a late Gabriel Jesus brace and Riyad Mahrez goal finished Wolves off. If nothing else, Wolves’ stubborn resistance — for 80 minutes, anyway — gives everyone else in the Premier League some hope that this Manchester City side is mortal, after all.
(8) Though he’s been in and out of the lineup in recent weeks, Phil Foden is rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous players at Manchester City. The 20-year-old perfectly complements the club’s other attackers like Gabriel Jesus, the fit-again Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne, and Raheem Sterling. Back in 2019, Guardiola called Foden “the most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager.” High praise from the man who only manages teams with mega-elite talent.
Since being in Manchester City first team squad Phil Foden has been involved in 20 goals against Big 6— ¹⁰ (@SxrgioSZN) February 25, 2021
He’s 20 years of age pic.twitter.com/8Pg5IWeidL
(9) The (very) unlikely hero of Manchester City’s season has been John Stones. Maligned as a big bust after several subpar years at the Etihad, Stones is in the midst of resurrecting his career with top-class display after top-class display. Gone are the boneheaded mistakes that plagued his early days at Manchester City, leaving an assured defender who excels at passing out from the back.
(10) When Michail Antonio scored for West Ham last weekend, he became the first opposition player since Mo Salah — in November — to score at the Etihad. Incredibly, John Stones and Ruben Dias have scored more goals (5) than they’ve allowed (3) as a center back partnership.
(11) Stat of the week: