OLD Trafford will come under the glare of the Premier League spotlight this weekend for more reasons than one, and home team Man United will be as keen as ever to snuff out the advances of their crosstown rivals City, who are bidding for an unprecedented fourth straight title.
Tomorrow’s late kickoff will not only have the Red Devils bent on seeing off their “noisy neighbors” to strengthen their own standing in the league but also as a way to honour one of their most illustrious stars, Bobby Charlton, who passed away last week.
Man United beat Copenhagen in the Champions League in midweek at the Theatre of Dreams, but they would also dearly love to consign Man City to defeat in their first league outing at home.Charlton will always be remembered among Man United’s greats.
He scored in the European Cup final when they beat Benfica 4-1 to take home “Big Ears” for the first time. And he was also one of those who survived the Munich air disaster in 1958, which claimed the lives of half of their squad.
That is why this team, which is sitting in eighth place after an indifferent start to the season, will be expected to get their act together and give City something to think about.
But it won’t be easy. Not against a Pep Guardiola team who might have won in the midweek but are still hurting from three excessive defeats in the domestic game.
The Citizens beat Switzerland’s Young Boys 3-1 for a third consecutive victory in the Champions League to all but secure their passage to the knockout stage.
City were set up by a double from Erling Haaland, and it is the Norwegian international whom Man United will be wary of.
The tall centre-forward hit a hat-trick against Man United in the hammering they endured when they visited Etihad last season. Man United ended up conceding half a dozen goals that day.
If they play with the same waywardness, they will almost surely suffer similar pain tomorrow.
However, Erik ten Hag’s side have won their last three games in a row and will be more than delighted if they can add City’s scalp to that mini list.
Man United had unlikely heroes in midweek – much-suffering Harry Maguire and fumbling goalkeeper Andre Onana.
The England central defender, who has endured much ridicule in his time at Old Trafford, particularly over the last 18 months or so, scored the only goal of the game, while Onana ensured Man United held on to the points after saving an added-on-time penalty.
On face value, and despite Man United having strung together a few right results, one would expect City to prevail at Old Trafford, even if the home side do play with the great Charlton in their thoughts.
Meanwhile, Arsenal are heavy favourites to down struggling Sheffield United.
Mikel Arteta has really got the Gunners playing with character, which some say is a lot better than last season and could yet land them that elusive Premier League title.
Arsenal have not won the Premier League crown since that heroic triumph of 2004.
Newcastle United’s visit to Wolves might also prove a close call, even if the Magpies have shown some good touch in recent weeks, barring the loss to Borussia Dortmund at St James Park in midweek.