Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

Predicted Line Up: Manchester United vs Manchester City

(Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Having just scraped a 2-2 draw in midweek against Atalanta, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are sure to have Saturday’s Manchester derby set firmly in their sights. The game appears one that the Norwegian manager has to win to help win more fans over following a mediocre season so far. Will the manager opt for a traditional back-four, or play a more defensive back-five? Let’s take a look at the probable team that will grace the Old Trafford turf this weekend…

Formation: 5-3-2

Goalkeeper & Defenders

Goalkeeper: David de Gea

Fans and pundits alike have spoken about the impeccable form of Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League this season, but David de Gea’s Premier League form probably matches that of his Portuguese teammate in its own unique way. The Spaniard has come in clutch many times so far this campaign and will have to be on top form for United to get a result this weekend.

Right wing-back: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

It could credibly be said that Diogo Dalot would be better suited to a 5-3-2, yet it would be astonishing if he was to feature ahead of Wan-Bissaka on Saturday. Renowned for his stellar performances against Raheem Sterling, Wan-Bissaka tends to shine in derby games and will want to build on what was a good showing in midweek in Europe (he was definitely one of United’s better performers).

Centre-back: Victor Lindelöf 

Lindelöf was absent from the draw in Italy on Tuesday, with Eric Bailly stepping in to fill the void. Solskjaer has always been a fan of the Swede, and when considering the manager’s tendency to rush players back even when they are not fully fit, fans should expect Lindelöf to return to the starting side against City. The manager said today- “He’s still a doubt but, hopefully, he can come in tomorrow and say he’s ready”. Make of that what you will.

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Centre-back: Eric Bailly

It was Ronaldo who made the headlines against Atalanta with his goalscoring brace, yet Reds fans know a good performance when they see one, and Eric Bailly’s was nothing short of fantastic against the Italian outfit. The Ivorian’s speed and strength were integral to United earning a point and, with fellow defender Raphael Varane suffering from a hamstring injury, he will look ahead to the derby hoping to make back-to-back appearances for the first time this campaign.

Centre-back: Harry Maguire

The presence of the club captain is inevitable this Saturday, despite a bad patch in form. Even the biggest fan of Maguire will tell you that he has looked somewhat off the pace these last couple of weeks and has been poor in every game since his return to full fitness. In saying that, though, the likelihood is that he isn’t operating at full fitness and that the manager has rushed him back early. A source close to the club has leaked in the last week that the £80m man should not have featured against Leicester or in the home tie against Atalanta due to injury. Let’s hope Harry shows us a defensive masterclass against the city rivals tomorrow!

Left wing-back: Luke Shaw

Since firing England into an early lead in the Euros Final in the Summer, Luke Shaw hasn’t quite managed to hit those same heights so far this campaign. Whether you put that down to fitness, tactics, or something else, it is definitely a reality. It is important to note, however, that the England man has by no means been poor, and still remains one of the better United performers this season. Solskjaer trusts the former Southampton man, and his big-game experience should come in handy this weekend, where he will surely face a tricky right-winger in blue. In case you forgot, Shaw was on the scoresheet in the last Manchester derby in March, when United won 0-2 away from home.


Central Midfield: Scott McTominay

It would be baffling if the manager didn’t pick one of his favourites in a big game like this. McTominay is often labelled for his passion, desire and energy, and even though he may be limited in regard to footballing ability, the Scotsman will die for the red shirt; he is exactly what the coaching staff like in a midfielder. Fast ball progression is vital if United are to get a result against the Blues, so the academy lad has to have a classy performance this weekend.

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Central Midfield: Fred

It is easy to forget that Manchester United actually pipped Manchester City to the signing of the former Shakhtar Donetsk man in 2018. It seems ironic to think that Pep Guardiola, a manager who prides his football on good passers of the ball, wanted to sign a player who Reds fans berate for exceptionally poor passing week-in, week-out. Fred featuring in the team is more than likely this weekend. Him and McTominay will be expected to shield the defenders in what is likely to be a pragmatic display against City. Fred’s better qualities- tenacity and energy- will be crucial if United are to secure the win over the men in blue.

Central Midfield: Bruno Fernandes 

In attack, the Portuguese Magnifico will operate more as an attacking midfielder and will have to be pinpoint in his passes to get the ball to the forwards. Every chance will count against a solid City defence, and with Bruno and Ronaldo’s link-up play so important to anything good the team do, he will have to play well this weekend against Pep’s team. In defence, he will have to surely drop in and aid his midfielders in tracking the runners. Like Luke Shaw, Bruno bagged in the last derby, and will want to add to his league tally against United’s bitter rivals tomorrow.

Striker: Marcus Rashford

I think even the greatest of Greek philosophers would struggle to define the team’s style of play this season. Chances often come in very different ways, in the sense that United never seem to muster up 3 or 4 similar chances a game, indicating that Solskjaer probably isn’t tactically excelling behind the scenes. One convention that does seem to crop up every game, though, is the long ball. To create chances this way, any team needs pace and power in behind; Marcus Rashford is the perfect man for a game like this. The team will likely set up defensive and pragmatic in nature, so the outlet that Rashford offers with his pace on the counter-attack and explosive energy in-behind is sure to be part of any potential win the team may earn. The Englishman has scored 3 goals in 5 games since returning to full fitness and will want to improve on what is a good record in the Manchester derby on a personal level.

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Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo

Arguably the greatest to ever play the game, Cristiano Ronaldo needs no justification for his selection this weekend. Ronaldo has come back to the club like he has never been away. 2 goals in the week, including a stunning stoppage-time equaliser, showed that he is crisp, fresh and raring to go, even at 36. The Portuguese superstar will need to show leadership and experience in what is a huge game for United. Ronaldo has saved Solskjaer in Europe, but he now needs to switch his focus to domestic football and show the ever-brilliant Old Trafford crowd what he is all about.

Worthy Mentions

The likes of Jadon Sancho and Donny van de Beek, despite impressive cameos against Atalanta, are unlikely to feature in the derby; Sancho doesn’t suit the defensive system and is out of form, whilst van de Beek simply never gets a start in a red shirt. Paul Pogba is likely to miss out, and perhaps rightfully so, after what was a woeful showing from the Frenchman in the week. Mason Greenwood will be lucky to get a game, with the youngster being another player who is not destined to excel in a 5-3-2.

Regardless of the team selection, the game is one of the biggest of the season. Manchester United, as the underdogs, will have to be on absolute top form to get a result against a quality Manchester City side. That being said, both sides have hit a rocky patch in form in their last 3 games and with form going out the window, we should all hope that a roaring crowd of 75,000 can propel the team forward to victory. A win would see United move onto the same points as City.

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