FOLLOWING the humiliation of crashing out of the Champions League in midweek, Manchester United now face the prospect of a thumping by bitter cross-town rivals Man City.
At least that is what it looks like on paper. However, derbies have over the years clearly and rather explicitly shown us that the formbook often counts for little – or nothing at all.
With this, City can expect a spirited showing by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side when they visit Old Trafford today, in what has been billed as the match of the weekend.
Unsurprisingly, some Man United detractors have taken the liberty on social media and other platforms to suggest that the Red Devils’ boss will not see out Christmas in his present post.
A heavy defeat today could well end Solskjaer’s tenure at the Theatre of Dreams, despite public support for him from the Man United’s board of directors just the other day.
The Norwegian, who is favoured rather mightily by their hierarchy, will know only too well that football is a results-based business.
An unceremonious exit from the Champions League in the group stages not only brings huge embarrassment to the club, but also comes with millions of pounds in lost revenue.
In stark contrast to Man United’s midweek shame in the Champions League, City qualified top of their group and unbeaten at that.
Perhaps more worryingly for the home side today is the momentum that the Citizens have at the moment. They won in the league over the past two weekends and the 5-0 thrashing of Burnley was their best performance in the league so far this season.
The 3-0 demolition of Marseille in the Champions League on Wednesday was marked by the return from injury of prolific central striker Sergio Aguero, who for good measure, got in among the goals.
Certainly the world’s top marksman when fully fit and definitely in the top three of the global game, Aguero’s presence alone could unhinge the outcome at Old Trafford, despite him not being in the starting line-up.
It would not surprise many to see Ferran Torres lead the attack and do it with some distinction – he was the player of the match against Marseille. Gabriel Jesus though should get the nod to return to the first XI.
Pep Guardiola will surely make a few changes to the side that saw off Marseille. He is likely to recall goalkeeper Ederson, defenders Ruben Dias and Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri in midfield.
Man United were obviously unsettled by comments from Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola on the eve of their clash with RB Leipzig, which led to their Champions League demise. And the Frenchman may yet again start on the bench.
But above all, Solskjaer will need to rally his troops ahead of what could be a turning point in their season.
He will need his highly paid soldiers to stand up and be counted. And that includes nearly the whole under-performing squad and especially David De Gea, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
The exception is Bruno Fernandes. He has been an unlikely hero for the home team on more than one occasion – they will need him at his best today.
For a team that reportedly spent more than £1bil since Alex Ferguson left, United have been dire and Solskjaer’s job is surely on the line if they lose. Thus, unless they get their act together, they could get a right ol’ hammering by City today.
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