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United v City: Opposition View

We all know there's more than three points at stake on derby day...

Of course, bragging rights are also up-for-grabs so whether you're feeling confident, nervous, excited or a little queasy as the clash draws nearer, it's okay... we understand!

But how are United fans feeling ahead of the game? We spoke to Nick (@manunitedyouth) of Red Mancunian who shared his thoughts on the 170th Manchester derby... 

Fan View

How are you feeling ahead of the game?
More optimistic than I was in the immediate aftermath of the defeat to Arsenal a few weeks back, for sure. Seeing us torn apart like that definitely made me look further down the fixture list and wonder what damage an equally 'on it' City side could inflict.

Both team and manager have responded well since then though, and anyone would feel a little better about their team's chances when seeing players of the class of Aguero and Silva ruled out through injury.

What kind of game are you expecting?

Cagey early on, particularly with the Arsenal game fresh in United minds, but both teams are scoring plenty of goals of late and I can see that continuing on Sunday.
How do you expect United to line-up? Who will play and in what formation?

Have to think van Gaal will stick with the system that worked so well at Goodison Park last week. He finally seems to have settled on playing a midfield three (one of Schweinsteiger or Carrick - who appear to be operating some sort of job-share - alongside Schneiderlin, with Herrera more advanced), which looked like the obvious choice at the start of the season and has started promisingly.

Unfortunately this has resulted in Rooney - horrendously out of form but apparently undroppable - displacing Martial as the lone forward, but we can't have everything. I'd expect an XI along the lines of: De Gea; Darmian, Jones, Smalling, Rojo; Carrick, Schneiderlin, Herrera; Mata, Martial, Rooney.
Where do you think the key battles will take place on the pitch?

Predictable maybe but can't see past the centre of midfield. United now theoretically have the players in that area to match up well with both the physicality and creativity of Fernandinho, Toure, De Bruyne and co. but we're yet to see them deployed together in a truly big game.

The youthful exuberance of Martial and Sterling up against wily full-backs like Zabaleta and Darmian could be fascinating to watch as well (unless van Gaal picks Valencia instead, in which case replace fascinating with excruciating).
Who should City be most wary of?
Martial. Definitely more a threat in a central role, but even if deployed out wide he'll pose a real threat with his pace and movement. Hasn't been remotely fazed by the fee paid for him or anything he's faced in English football so far.

Who do you feel United should be most wary of?
Hard to look past De Bruyne, especially with Aguero and Silva absent. Another who has shrugged off a huge price tag to fit in seamlessly, and seems to have made a decisive contribution in pretty much every game he's played.

Would you say United have improved under Louis van Gaal?
Definitely, although after the debacle that was David Moyes' reign we'd have probably seen an upturn in fortunes under Louis Spence. The ship has definitely been steadied - there's more resilience, more belief and the difference in performance against the bigger teams has been vast.

It's been slow and often desperately uninspiring progress at times though and the jury's still out for most on whether the team can take the next step up under LvG.

Do you agree with van Gaal’s comments that City have an advantage, having played at home in the Champions League in midweek whereas United have had to travel?

You'd almost always prefer a home game over a trek to somewhere like Moscow in the run-up to a big game like this so there's definitely a slight advantage there.

That said, United faced lesser opposition, were able to rest a few players and aren't dealing with the injury problems City have at the moment, so hopefully it won't prove too significant.
In recent years, derby games have had more at stake with both teams challenging for honours. Would you say the rivalry has intensified?
Undoubtedly. The derby's always been one of the fixtures you look out for but as a United fan, complacency had probably crept in - wins were expected, defeats soon shrugged off as blips en route to bigger things.

There's much more of an edge to these games now, predictably given there's - Moyes' season aside - generally a lot more riding on them than just local pride. Just a shame there aren't a few more Mancunians on the field these days to really spice things up a bit.

Dare to cast a score prediction…?

United to edge a thriller by the odd goal in five.
Where do you think both sides will finish this season?

On overall quality of starting XI and squad, it should really be City's title to lose.

Arguably there have been other years recently where you'd have said that too and they then proceeded to do so, but Chelsea have imploded early on, United are still a player or two short at least and Arsenal are... well, Arsenal - probably good enough to edge United down into a close third but almost certain to choke if a genuine chance of winning the title presents itself.

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