Manchester United and Manchester City will lock horns in the first Manchester derby of the 2023/24 Premier League season at the weekend, with bookmakers like 32red sport favouring the Premier League champions ahead of the home team.
Tuesday’s must-win Champions League showdown against Copenhagen is the final rehearsal ahead of Sunday’s blockbuster.
United are looking to get off the mark after a two-game losing start to their Group A campaign, which would be a fitting way to pay tribute to the recently departed Sir Bobby Charlton.
According to Mail Sport, Man Utd are ‘confident’ that homages to the club’s icon won’t be marred by the rivalry between the fans after Man City condemned sick behaviour from a small group of supporters.
The Cityzens offered a sincere apology to Charlton’s family after a disturbing video depicting a group of their fans joining in a despicable chant during a 2-1 win against Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend.
Despite winning back-to-back league games in the build-up to Sunday’s derby clash at Old Trafford, the Red Devils lament a negative -2 goal difference in the Premier League this campaign (GF:11, GA:13).
None of Man Utd’s five league victories this season have come against sides heading into Gameweek 10 in the upper half of the table, casting further doubt on their bid to replicate a 2-1 win in this fixture last term.
Erik ten Hag’s lads had lost two consecutive top-flight outings on home turf before Scott McTominay’s stoppage-time heroics helped them pull off a 2-1 fightback against Brentford last time out.
However, United’s home performances in 2023/24 have lacked conviction, with all three league wins at Old Trafford yielding single-goal margins.
That’s not to mention Galatasaray stunned Manchester into silence in the previous Champions League round, coming from behind to beat Ten Hag’s troops 3-2.
Like on-field troubles aren’t ominous enough, Man Utd must cope with piling off-field problems.
While the highly anticipated ratification of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s takeover would probably help quell the fans’ nerves, they must show patience after the latest delay.
In addition to the long-running takeover saga, Jadon Sancho has tarnished his relationship with the club and will almost certainly leave Old Trafford in January.
Ten Hag’s decision to freeze the English winger out of the squad has put an additional squeeze on his options amid a growing injury crisis at the Theatre of Dreams.
With Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez still in the infirmary, the Dutchman will likely rely on Victor Lindelof and recently recovered Sergio Reguilon to fill the gaps.
But while the former has lived up to expectations in recent matches, the latter is still a relatively unknown entity, having spent most of his early life in Manchester on the sidelines.
Bruno Fernandes must step up
Fernandes has been a beast for Portugal in the ongoing UEFA 2024 European Championship qualifying, leading the goal contribution charts with five goals and seven assists.
However, he has had a relatively quiet start to the new Premier League campaign, tallying two goals and as many assists across the opening nine rounds.
Since Marcus Rashford continues to struggle for form and Rasmus Hojlund blows hot and cold, the Man Utd captain must take responsibility on Sunday if the Red Devils were to stand a chance.
He played a crucial role in United’s comeback in this corresponding fixture last season, scoring a late equaliser before Rashford completed the turnaround.
These are not happy times for Man Utd fans by any means, but there can be no better inspiration for Ten Hag’s generation to try and salvage their faltering season than beating Man City for Charlton.
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