Manchester United have a massive 15-points advantage at the top of the table.
That means this fixture doesn’t matter in terms of the title race. Manchester United will win the title whatever happens on this match. Both managers, Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini are well aware of the situation. That is why I am expected an open approach from them. Both teams will play only for pride, but pride is something very valuable when the derby games are in question. For example, a victory for City will see the fans pleased and I am sure Mancini will be happy too.
Manchester United is in excellent form when the Premier League is in question. The Red Devils have seven consecutive victories in the last seven rounds. United managed to beat Sunderland, Reading, Norwich, QPR, Everton, Fulham and Southampton. However, Ferguson’s players were not on desired level on two different occasions – they lost from Real Madrid in UEFA Champions League and lost from Chelsea in FA Cup on Monday. I believe the mentioned two defeats spoiled the atmosphere.
For this match Ferguson has only one player unavailable – long-term injured Darren Fletcher. The defender Rafael is expected to overcome the groin injury. If not, then Phil Jones or Chris Smalling will start at right-back. As of Friday, Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans have been out of training and each are doubts for the derby.
Manchester City have three victories and two defeats in the last five Premier League matches. The defeats came from Southampton and Everton. Mancini is still without injured defender Maicon, but Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell could recover on time. However, it is not expected to start.
I expect an efficient match at Old Trafford. The last five mutual matches have produced 23 goals. That means an average of 4.60 goals per game. I see an open match here.