Manchester United vs. Manchester City: Influencer Predictions from Both Sides

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2017

Who will be smiling after Sunday's derby?
Who will be smiling after Sunday's derby?Dave Thompson/Associated Press

Manchester United vs. Manchester City on Sunday is the biggest game of the season for both sides, as second faces first and Jose Mourinho faces Pep Guardiola. 

It has been a big game again for a while, but this is the most important encounter between the teams since December 2012, when United beat City at the Etihad Stadium to move six points clear of their local rivals at the top of the Premier League table.

What will the result be this time around? Will it have the same kind of bearing on the title race as it did then? We spoke to journalists, bloggers and tweeters from both sides of the divide to see what they think might happen in the game.

            

Elijah Sofoluke—United Fan and Blogger

Twitter: @MrScripto

Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City

The main stick-or-twist issue for Jose regarding the biggest game of the season is whether he continues the trend of only playing three at the back against teams that also employ the formation or if he goes with four. As fruitful as the formation has been in terms of giving us an offensive edge, it allowed us to be somewhat overrun in midfield in the games against Watford and Arsenal.

Against City, this would be a criminal offence, particularly as it is likely that Guardiola will instruct his full-backs to tuck in to give a numerical advantage in the centre of the park. However, a 4-3-3 turning into a 6-3-1, with City pinning us back at home, would be a cardinal sin.

Pogba is sent off against Arsenal.
Pogba is sent off against Arsenal.Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

Paul Pogba's absence just serves to make matters worse for Mourinho. Whatever the case, it stands to be a tight, pulsating affair rather than a cavalier one like down at the Emirates Stadium last time out in the league. All things considered, a low-scoring draw is what I think comes of this particular Manchester derby.

          

Iwan Lehnert—Co-Host of the Red Voices Podcast

Twitter: @IwanLehnert

Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City

It's difficult to say Manchester City have been lucky during these past few games; you don't score three late winners in the space of a week by accident, and they all came as a result of sustained pressure.

But the league leaders haven't been at their free-flowing, destructive best of late, and while United won't be expecting an easier game as a result, Mourinho's side is arguably the only team in the league with the best chance of exploiting this relative lapse.

In theory, anyway.

Pogba is a massive miss, but during October's deserved 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, United proved they can overcome a top side without their talismanic midfielder. Much will depend on the home side's ability to cope with periods of sustained City pressure and how lethal they can be in front of goal.

Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard's form when attacking teams at pace in the past few weeks has been encouraging in that respect, but Mourinho will almost certainly be keen to keep things tight in such a big game, especially with a defeat surely spelling the end of his team's title challenge.

Will United stick with a back three?
Will United stick with a back three?Gareth Copley/Getty Images

I expect United to be happy to let City keep the ball and target them on the break. Mourinho will probably favour a variation of the 3-5-2 we've seen in recent weeks and insist his players keep things tight. He'll be desperate not to lose, but with an eight-point deficit between the two sides at the top of the Premier League, this is as good a chance as any to eat into City's lead. In that sense, I expect a tense, nervy affair that could well be settled by one goal.

United won't want to lose, and City will be exceptionally tricky to keep out.

             

Sam Homewood—Presenter, Full Time Devils

Twitter: @SamHomewood

Prediction: Manchester United 3-2 Manchester City

I predicted the Arsenal game would be boring because the big teams rarely offer up much entertainment when they face each other. I was very, very wrong. So completely wrong. Well, I've learned from my mistakes and am expecting one hell of a show on Sunday. It'll be the super-est Sunday of all, as something's got to give.

United are unbeaten in 40 games at home, equalling their best-ever run. City have won 13 league games in a row—only two other teams have managed that. One of the records will end, and Pogba's absence will be huge. If he were playing, I would have been overconfident in United's ability to pick apart a City team that needed late goals to win their past three league games.

Can Fellaini step up in Pogba's absence?
Can Fellaini step up in Pogba's absence?OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Annoyingly, he's not playing, but Marouane Fellaini might. He's cursed City before, so he could do it again. I think it'll be an open game. City have an incredible appetite for goals, and David De Gea has superhuman abilities to stop goals being scored. All over the pitch, there will be fights won and lost, but I think it's a game for the big players, and once again I put my faith in Jesse Lingard to see us through.

United will win, and it'll be a glorious battle to the final whistle.

              

Doron Salomon—Former United Blogger

Twitter: @DoronSalomon

Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City

Against what the heart wants, I think City will win and open up an unassailable lead in the league. They have too many game-changing attacking players who are capable of scoring. With Pogba available, I'd have given United more of a chance, but even with De Gea, United give up too many chances, and I can't see them keeping City out.

Let's hope I'm very wrong!

            

United Rant—United Blogger and Podcaster

Twitter: @unitedrant

Prediction: Manchester United 1-0 Manchester City

Mourinho will park the mother of all buses, United will frustrate City's tippy-tappy ickle midfield schemers and United will nick an ugly win at the death.

Fellaini, 89th minute, 41 matches unbeaten at home. Thank you very much!

          

Darren Richman—Journalist, Blogger, United Fan

Twitter: @darrenrichman

Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City

I think Guardiola will be delighted with a draw. A draw or a City win effectively ends any talk of a title race, though I did not think there was much of a title race in the first place. In many ways, this game reminds me of the derby around the same time of year in 2012, when Robin van Persie scored a last-minute winner. After that, everyone knew the league was done.

Van Persie celebrates his stoppage-time winner at the Etihad in December 2012.
Van Persie celebrates his stoppage-time winner at the Etihad in December 2012.ANDREW YATES/Getty Images

A draw does not do much for United, but it does plenty for City. The myth around Guardiola is that his team always goes out to win and that's all he cares about, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is quite a boring afternoon. I might be wrong, and the myth of Guardiola might be more accurate than I'm giving it credit for, but this is what I think will happen.

               

Martin Sheehan—United Blogger and Tweeter

Twitter: @office_monkey

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City

No Pogba, no win, right? At least that is what I've been reading since his red card on Saturday.

Perhaps that is the case, but the neighbours have been wobbling recently. And where better to inflict their first loss of the season than at Old Trafford? History shows that Mourinho will play it safe and park the bus, but I think he might just surprise everyone and play a side that could cause City problems. Martial or Rashford? Young or Shaw? Herrera or Fellaini? Will Lingard get the nod?

He's on an excellent run of form, and I wouldn't be disappointed to see him start.

              

Jay Motty—Red Flag Flying High

Twitter: @RFFH

Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Manchester City

Most United fans will be erring on the side of caution for the visit of the media darlings. A Pogba-less United facing a team that can't stop winning sounds like a recipe for an exercise in bus parking that would make Sandra Bullock blush.

Well, forgive me for being optimistic, but I'm not drinking the Pep Guardiola Kool-Aid just yet. Nor do I believe United's home record is a fluke. City have been unbeaten but looked far from unbeatable while Jose, who's just silenced the critics over his away record against the top teams, will be desperate to do the same to those who question his record versus Pep.

Expect United to close down City from the front and exploit the Blues' weaknesses at set pieces as Old Trafford shows the world what a Mancunian atmosphere sounds like. A Fellaini-inspired comfortable 2-0 United win is on the cards.

                

Muhammad Butt—Head of Features, HITC.com

Twitter: @muhammadbutt

Prediction: Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City

As Pogba walked off the Emirates pitch on Saturday, he took with him any chance of United attacking City in the derby. United's game plans, even their defend-deep-and-counter-attack ones, revolve around Pogba's unique skill of being able to do absolutely everything.

Will a "blinder" from De Gea be enough?
Will a "blinder" from De Gea be enough?Julian Finney/Getty Images

But parking the bus? That's something any old team of disciplined players can do. And after over a season under Mourinho's tutelage, there's plenty of discipline in the Red Devils side. So without his best player, Mourinho will park the bus and plan for a 0-0 while hoping to nick a goal off a Romelu Lukaku-and-Martial two-man counter.

United will hold out—another blinder from De Gea—but concede around the hour. Then they go all-out for an equaliser but get picked off on the break.

            

David Mooney—Blue Moon Podcast

Twitter: @DavidMooney

Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City

City have had a recent habit of needing to come from behind to win games, though you suspect if they go behind to a Mourinho United team, then they would do well to get back into the game.

City lost in a Champions League game on Wednesday but have been in superb form this season.
City lost in a Champions League game on Wednesday but have been in superb form this season.Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

Instead, this could be a similar game to last season—City start brightly, but United grow into it. Expect Mourinho to park the bus since allowing City space has proved costly for teams this season, and one of United's strengths this year has been their counter-attack. If Mourinho can catch City out when they've got bodies forward, then he'll be pleased.

         

Simon Bajkowski—Manchester Evening News

Twitter: @spbajko

Prediction: Manchester United 1-3 Manchester City

City have made late winners a speciality in recent weeks.
City have made late winners a speciality in recent weeks.Rui Vieira/Associated Press

I think we should see two teams significantly better than in the derbies last season, and it could come down to a single decision from either coach. My worry for United is that Pogba's absence will mean Mourinho goes more defensive than he was planning to go but not defensive enough to completely shut City out.

I'll go 3-1, mostly for that reason but also because City have torpedoed so much of my match copy with their lack of respect for accepted norms and newspaper deadlines I've lost the will to even speculate they might not win.

           

Jordan Elgott—Blogger for City Watch

Twitter: @JElgott

Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City

I'm going to go for a 1-1 draw. While United are in need of a win to keep up the pressure on the Blues, I can't see Jose Mourinho altering his usual "big-game" tactics. With that in mind, I'm expecting a cagey affair. City to make the breakthrough in the second half thanks to a Gabriel Jesus tap-in. United to equalise from a set piece.

Will Gabriel Jesus get that tap-in?
Will Gabriel Jesus get that tap-in?Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

I've never been slightly confident going into a derby. I'm typically pessimistic about City, as many Blues are. My unusual optimism for the games against Huddersfield Town, Southampton and West Ham United, and the way those matches went, reminded me to stay grounded. I'm not deluded. City are clearly in a superb position going into this fixture and stand a real chance of coming away with a win, but I'm not expectant of one.

I expect Mourinho to set up with a deep defensive block, and as for City, we only know one way to play. I think the pattern of the game will be dictated by whoever scores the first goal. If United get it, I expect a big, red double-decker bus to be parked in front of David De Gea until the final whistle. If City get it, United will be forced to press higher up the pitch, which could play into the hands of Leroy Sane and company.

              

Alex Timperley—City Blogger

Twitter: Alex has given up on Twitter.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-3 Manchester City

United 2-3 City. We will race off, but United will come back a bit, and the ending will be a bit nervy.

I've never been confident going into a derby. The week before is always horrible, and the day itself is a mess. We should win given the way we are playing, but that doesn't mean I'm confident we will. Our form this season has been incredible—I've never seen anything like it—and a win at Old Trafford to open up an 11-point lead and break the consecutive win record would be the icing on the cake of the first half of 2017/18.

Both teams will be bang up for it, though, and anything could happen. That's a horrible cliche, I know!

I think the main difference between City and United this season, from what I've seen, is the City players are a proper, actual team and the whole club is pulling in the same direction. I don't see that at United, where it all looks a bit disjointed from the outside. Mourinho is isolating players and whining about how unfair life is, and the team doesn't seem to have a style, which is something the best United teams always had.

Pogba and De Gea have been crucial to United.
Pogba and De Gea have been crucial to United.GEOFF CADDICK/Getty Images

It seems to be "hope Pogba is fit, try not to linger with the ball in midfield and hope De Gea saves everything." Obviously, that's my view, and I imagine there will be some disagreement from the red contingent, but it is a useful contrast in my opinion because this City team have something special about them, and the team has a definite winning style and mentality. That's the difference.

City will be much the same as they were in the other games against the better sides this season. We will dominate possession from the off and look to tire the United midfield out. If United's players don't have the legs to run for 90 minutes, then we should win.

I've heard some talk from giddy-sounding United fans about their team having the players to take advantage of our high defensive line and stop our wingers, but I just don't see it. Napoli, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have all tried that and failed, and I don't see what weapon United have that none of those teams do? Perhaps I'm missing something.

Either way, it won't be a walkover. United will have periods of the game, and if Mourinho is smart, he will have had his big lads practicing attacking set pieces because they aren't beating us at our own game on the ground.

              

Stephen Tudor—Football Writer and City fan

Twitter: @SteTudor123

Prediction: Manchester United 2-2 Manchester City

Much of the fascination of this game lies in whether Mourinho will park the bus. I don't think he will, though we can certainly expect the central area to be on lockdown (particularly with the loss of Pogba). United will look to hit on the break, and as proved at Arsenal, they are extremely good at that. But even so, for City it will be a nice break not to face 10 men stationed behind the ball for 90 minutes.

I can see United scoring. A concern from the City perspective is we've lost a touch of sharpness up front in recent weeks. That's ultimately what it comes down to for me—can City take their chances? They will absolutely create them.

           

Quotes obtained firsthand.

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