League leaders Manchester City make the short trip to Old Trafford to face second-placed Manchester United in the Premier League’s highlight fixture this weekend. A win for Jose Mourinho’s side will keep their title hopes alive, while a loss will see the Citizens go 11 points clear. Is there value in the Manchester United vs. Manchester City odds? Read on to find out.
Live Manchester United vs. Manchester City odds
In what is undoubtedly the biggest fixture of the season so far, bettors might find it strange to see Manchester United go into the match as underdogs. However, their opponents are currently on a club-record 13-game win streak in the league (23 unbeaten) and have almost a 90% chance of winning the league.
Is it win or bust for Manchester United?
Manchester United overcame Newcastle’s 12-point lead in 1995/96 and in 2002/03 it was a nine-point gap between themselves and Arsenal. Although the Red Devils let a 12-point lead slip in 1997/98 and lost out to Sunday’s opponents in dramatic fashion in 2011/12 (after being eight points clear with six games left), these examples show that the race for the title isn’t over yet.
Manchester City seemed unstoppable after the first 13 games of the season, but since then have struggled to three consecutive 2-1 wins over lesser opposition.
We are still yet to reach the halfway point of this season but Manchester City are in imperious form. If Manchester United want to claw back their local rivals, they need to take advantage when they can have a direct influence (by winning the two fixtures against them).
As important as a win is for Jose Mourinho’s side is, they will also be wary of the implications of defeat. If results go against Manchester United this weekend, they could find themselves just four points clear of fifth place in the league table - a run of poor results could soon see them drop out of the Champions League qualification places.
Will Manchester United change their style?
Before Manchester United’s match against Arsenal last weekend, many had labelled Jose Mourinho’s style against the “big six” in the Premier League as boring (particularly when playing away from home - they had scored just one goal and not won a single match in the previous nine).
An enthralling 3-1 win may have changed some opinions but it was Arsenal’s all-out attack that led to such an open game, rather than Manchester United adopting a more offensive approach. Despite playing at home this weekend, Mourinho will still set up to keep the opponents out and hope his side can take advantage of the chances that come their way.
If the Red Devils are to get anything out of the game on Sunday, they need to prove why they have one of the best defensive records in Europe’s top five leagues - only Barcelona and Atletico Madrid (both 0.5) have a lower average of goals conceded per game compared to Manchester United (0.6).
Manchester City have the highest average of goals per game across the top five leagues in European soccer (3.06), the third-highest shots per game average (18) and are the best at keeping the ball (averaging 66.4% possession with an 88.8% pass completion rate) - they have the ability to create chances so it’s just a case of whether Manchester United can shut them out.
How important can one player be?
No team will succeed if they are over-reliant on one player. Manchester United were bailed out time and time again by David de Gea in their last fixture (he set a Premier League record of 14 saves in one match), while it was Romelu Lukaku who proved pivotal to his team’s success early on in the season when he scored seven goals in the first seven games.
Both sides have been dealt a blow in terms of preparation for this weekend’s derby - Manchester United will be without the suspended Paul Pogba and Manchester City’s David Silva will miss the game through injury. These players are a crucial part of their respective teams success, but any genuine title contenders will need strength in depth. That said, the Citizens would appear to have more cover options compared to their local rivals.
Manchester United vs. Manchester City odds: Where is the value?
While most Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola encounters tend to focus on the two managers (Guardiola has nine wins, Mourinho four and there have been six draws), analysing the two teams' statistics is a much better way of finding value ahead of this weekend’s Manchester derby.
Only Barcelona and Atletico Madrid (both 0.5) have a lower average of goals conceded per game compared to Manchester United (0.6).
Manchester City seemed unstoppable after the first 13 games of the season, but since then have struggled to three consecutive 2-1 wins over lesser opposition (each of which required a goal in the last ten minutes) and then succumbed to their first loss in 28 competitive matches against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.
While Manchester City seem more beatable now than at any point this season, it could be argued that Manchester United’s weaknesses are yet to shine through - the 4.92 expected goals against from their win over Arsenal shows that the defence is perhaps not as sturdy as it may seem.
Mourinho will know that Manchester United are still in the title race but a loss could do some real damage. Although the Red Devils might be expected to be more attacking at home, trying to soak up presser and hit Manchester City on the counter is a game plan that could yield results. A Manchester United win is perhaps being undervalued by bettors and the Under 2.5 goals at 1.90* looks like a sensible bet.