Usually when crosstown rivals Manchester United (+336) and Manchester City (-118) square off it’s the main event. That goes double when the teams occupy the top two spots in the table as they do this season. And yet, this season’s second Manchester Derby has a decidedly second rate feel to it. Despite sitting first and second in the Premier League, City’s lead is so large, 16 points with seven matches left to play, that all that’s really left for United is to try and keep them from clinching the title this weekend. As for City, they’re halfway through a Champions League quarterfinal tie against Liverpool and have to figure out how to haul themselves out of the shocking 3-0 deficit when the two teams meet on Tuesday. Saturday’s matchup is for bragging rights, but that’s all it’s for.
It would be tempting to look at City’s 3-0 loss at Anfield on Wednesday and interpret it as a sign of hope for United. City had looked so invincible this season, losing only once in the Premier League (also to Liverpool) that maybe the stunning defeat would both shake City’s confidence and also demonstrate for United how to expose the cracks in Pep Guardiola’s style.
That simply won’t work for Manchester United. The major reason is that City didn’t play like City on Wednesday. Guardiola sent out a team that played Aymeric Laporte, usually a central defender, at leftback and played four central midfielders with Ilkay Gundogan starting instead of winger Raheem Sterling. In an attempt to nullify Liverpool’s attack, Guardiola succeeded in instead nullifying his own team’s dynamic play. That’s not going to happen against United.