Big Match Focus: Manchester United vs Manchester City

Premier League pacesetter Manchester City faces a major test of its title credentials when it heads to Old Trafford in Sunday's derby.

Rivalry between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola will always be a notable sideshow of any match involving clubs coached by them, and this is no different.   -  AP

Despite being just 15 games into the 2017-18 Premier League campaign, Sunday's Manchester derby is a match that will define the season in the eyes of many.

Manchester City goes into the clash eight points clear of United - its closest rival geographically and in the title race - with the general consensus being that the Premier League crown is already on the line.

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Victory for City will ensure it is is 11 ahead of everyone else in the standings, regardless of results elsewhere, whereas United can reignite a title tussle which is threatening to become a one-horse race.

And in recent weeks, City has started to show chinks in its armour, something United will be eager to exploit at Old Trafford in what is undoubtedly the most eagerly anticipated match of the season so far.

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FORM GUIDE

On the face of it, both teams could not be in much better form heading into this match, but if you look a little deeper then there is encouragement to be had for each of them.

For example, City has won each of its last 13 Premier League matches and is on the verge of setting a new record for successive wins in the division, but it has needed late strikes to spare the blushes in the last three.

Raheem Sterling has been in good form for Manchester United.   -  AP

Those three have been against fairly modest opposition as well, with West Ham, Southampton and Huddersfield Town all denied a point in the final 10 minutes by either Raheem Sterling or David Silva.

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As for United, it heads into the game on the back of four victories from as many games, yet it made hard work of the 2-1 defeat of CSKA Moscow, was bailed out by David de Gea's heroics against Arsenal and flirted with the possibility of throwing away a three-goal lead at Watford, before eventually seeing the game out 4-2.

So, while City and United approach the game from positions of strength, neither are entirely flawless.

MANAGER HEAD-TO-HEAD (Jose Mourinho v Pep Guardiola)

If you ignore Mourinho calling Guardiola a liar with respect to City's injury list, both coaches have been pretty well-behaved in the lead up to the fixture.

But their rivalry will always be a notable sideshow of any match involving clubs coached by them, and this is no different.

Man City vs Man U:  Head-to-head records

As a rivalry, however, things have been fairly one-sided in matches between them down the years, with Guardiola losing just four of his 19 games against Mourinho, winning eight.

Guardiola also pips Mourinho in terms of his overall Premier League record, winning 69.8 per cent of his matches compared to the Portuguese coach's record of 63.8 per cent. Of coaches to have presided over 50 games or more, only Antonio Conte (75.5 per cent) has a better ratio than the Spaniard.

This will be their third clash in the Premier League, with Guardiola winning one and drawing the other.

De Gea heads into the derby on the back of a classic Premier League goalkeeping performance against Arsenal, when he made a record-equalling 14 saves to help United to a 3-1 win.   -  Getty Images

 

PLAYER HEAD-TO-HEAD (David de Gea v Ederson)

The players to attract focus ahead of such clashes are usually strikers or particularly talented outfield players who are contributing a significant amount, but in this case it is the goalkeepers, and with good reason.

De Gea heads into the derby on the back of a classic Premier League goalkeeping performance against Arsenal, when he made a record-equalling 14 saves to help United to a 3-1 win.

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That took him up to 53 saves for the season, leaving him in second behind Lukasz Fabianski (61). It is no wonder that United's record of conceding just nine times (one less than City) is the best in the league so far.

But Ederson - who by comparison has made just 20 saves - is also enjoying a strong season, providing City with a calming and dependable influence behind the defence, something Claudio Bravo struggled to accomplish last season.

The Brazilian has not been forced into as many saves as De Gea, though that is arguably as much down to the fine collective performances of City's backline.

Whereas United, which has had to contend with a lot of defensive injuries and instability, would surely be much further adrift of City without its super Spaniard.

HISTORY SAYS

After suffering four Premier League defeats in a row to City, United has since enjoyed a solid run of one loss in five, winning two in that time.

But no away side has scored more Premier League goals at Old Trafford than City (27 - tied with Chelsea).

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