Man City vs Man Utd: Manchester derby Pitch to Post Preview podcast special

Sky Sports News reporters James Cooper and Ben Ransom dive into the key talking points ahead of the 185th Manchester derby on the Pitch to Post Preview podcast; watch Man City vs Man Utd live on Super Sunday from 4pm on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off at 4.30pm

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Manchester City are hurtling towards the title after an incredible 21-game winning streak, but with the Premier League's in-form away side Manchester United heading to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, can the leaders prevail on derby day and continue their remarkable run?

It is the first time City and United have gone into derby weekend first and second in the Premier League since 2018, but the contrast in form and fortunes between both sides could not be starker.

Pep Guardiola's side have won their last 21 games in all competitions to race 14 points clear at the top of the table, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side's title aspirations have fallen away after three consecutive goalless draws.

Ahead of Sunday's meeting at the Etihad - live on Sky Sports - where City can strengthen their grip on the title with a 22nd straight win, and United could extend their club-record unbeaten away run to 22 games, Sky Sports News reporters James Cooper and Ben Ransom joined Alice Piper on the Pitch to Post Preview podcast to tackle the key talking points...

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City represent a scary proposition for United

"People will say that the form should go out of the window in a Manchester derby. Well, Pep Guardiola has written the form book, people have questioned him, and this is a really big challenge for Manchester United," Cooper said.

"It's a scary proposition for Manchester United on Sunday. We're seeing Manchester City playing with smiles on their faces, having fun and looking like the Harlem Globetrotters again. Then we're looking at Manchester United on the back of three goalless draws - that's now seven this season - and thinking where it all went wrong.

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"Rotation, as we've seen at City, is easier when you're rotating like for like, I don't think United have that quality right there. Everyone outside Manchester has been talking about United as title contenders, but I don't think they really are.

"They've enjoyed being in the conversation because that is progress, we haven't heard that since 2013, but they are still missing key components and key players."

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Ransom added: "City have played the whole season without a striker, this is ludicrous that they are so far clear. Imagine taking the main striker out of any of the Premier League winning teams, you're left scratching your heads as to how they would have won the title.

"City have done it because they have an attacking unit. To have been without Sergio Aguero, who is arguably their greatest-ever player, it's a massive achievement where they find themselves.

"How scary a proposition is it for everyone if they go and get a world-class striker who's fit and can play 30, 40 games a season. That would give them so many more goals and would present a scary proposition for everyone trying to bridge the gap to them."

Pep improves players, Ole yet to do so

Pep Guardiola Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

"On one hand, Pep's way of managing and demanding players to be at their very best to get into the team has helped someone like (John) Stones do it for themselves," Ransom said. "But the case of Joao Cancelo is proof of Pep's ability to improve players.

"It took Cancelo almost a year to be able to understand what Pep wanted from him tactically, but now he's possibly the best in the world at stepping into midfield from full-back.

"Pep knows how to improve players and we've seen it time and time again, and the most exciting of them all is Phil Foden. He is spectacular and could go on to be England's best-ever player, I've never seen a young English player have the ability to control and move the ball as he does.

"He's only 20 and can go on to be whatever he wants, and with Pep taking his time to integrate him into the City team, he has all of the building blocks to fulfil his potential and some."

PEP GUARDIOLA JOAO CANCELO

"There were so many question marks against so many Manchester City players last season," Cooper added. "Were the likes of Joao Cancelo right for Manchester City? When Ruben Dias came in, was he the right player? Did John Stones have a future at the club?

"Pep Guardiola makes players better, that's the evidence throughout his time at Manchester City.

"I'm not saying Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cannot improve players, but I don't think he has had the time, maybe the experience around him in terms of coaching, the wherewithal or probably the basic materials in terms of players compared to the ones Manchester City have brought in to make players better. Pep does and Pep has."

The tactical approach: Stop Bruno, stop Man Utd?

Manchester United managed only one shot on target as they dropped 14 points off Manchester City with a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace
Image: Manchester United managed only one shot on target as they dropped 14 points off Manchester City with a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace

"It's become a cliche, but Pep will look at United and think if he can stop Bruno Fernandes playing, like other teams have successfully done recently, then he can stop Manchester United," Cooper said.

"From a tactical perspective, if you have two players sat in front of your defence because you are worried about your centre-backs, and have one player in the middle of the park who is the creative source, and your wide players are stuck on the touchline, if you can stop Bruno playing you can stop Manchester United playing because they are not creating from anywhere else.

"Solid, dependable, stodgy, resilient are just some of the adjectives used to describe this current Manchester United team, but those are not tags United fans want their team to have.

"What Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got to work out this weekend is whether stopping Manchester City winning another game is enough. I don't think it is. It's a derby and Manchester United will want to go and win these games."

Crystal Palace 0-0 Man Utd 3:03
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Crystal Palace's draw with Manchester United in the Premier League

Ransom added: "The biggest fear for Manchester United is that right now, City are really high, all the players are high and hungry, and when they are hungry, as we have seen previously, they can be ruthless.

"The biggest concern for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer going into this game is that tactical balance. United have drawn a lot of their big-six encounters 0-0 this season, having gone into those matches with a safety-first approach.

"But with Manchester City so good at playing around the press, it's going to be a tough ask for United. City find space where there is none and do it when they are confident, and at the moment they are very, very confident."

Can United end City's remarkable winning run?

preview image 3:14
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win over Wolves in the Premier League.

"This game against United is probably the best chance anyone will have at stopping City's winning run," Ransom said.

"To be fair to Solskjaer, in the big games against the big clubs, even this season, they have done very well. United will come to the Etihad with a defensive mindset, they will press, work hard, and try to stay solid.

"Can they stop City scoring? I don't think so. But there is a narrative that City may be due a slight off day with the games coming thick and fast.

"They got away with it against West Ham, maybe the game against United will be the one when they don't."

Scott McTominay's late strike sealed Manchester United last victory over Manchester City, almost a year to the day since fans were last inside Old Trafford
Image: Scott McTominay's late strike sealed Manchester United last victory over Manchester City, almost a year to the day since fans were last inside Old Trafford

"A year ago, Manchester United weren't expected to beat Manchester City at Old Trafford and did 2-0. It was their last game with fans at Old Trafford, it was an amazing night and something they look back on with optimism," Cooper said.

"At the Etihad Stadium they have won on their last two trips in all competitions and have only lost one in six. But Pep finds ways of winning. He's trusted his players to find solutions on the pitch and they are picking opponents to pieces.

"If Manchester United come away with a fourth 0-0 draw it would represent a good result, although probably one that is not that good to watch."

Predictions, predictions, predictions...

Cooper: "We've all talked about this winning run of Manchester City's, but if United go there and get a draw they would extend their unbeaten away run to 22 games. My head says City will win, my heart says Manchester United will get a 1-1 draw which stops City's run and extends their own."

Ransom: "I think City are too strong now. In the earlier league meeting at Old Trafford, City created chances, not many but enough, and didn't take them. I am confident they would take them now and City will score on Sunday.

"In that sense, it's probably going to be 2-1 or 3-1, I think United will score as City's defensive solidity has just lessened due to the sheer number of games, and someone like Rashford could punish them. But I cannot see United getting out of jail if City take their chances, and I cannot see United outscoring City."

Pitch to Post preview podcast: Manchester derby debate, Villa vs Wolves, Bale back on form for Spurs

In this week's Pitch to Post preview podcast Alice Piper is joined by Sky Sports News reporters Ben Ransom and James Cooper to look ahead to the Manchester derby. Can City end United's 21-game unbeaten away run to stretch their Premier League lead to 17 points?

We also hear from Rob Dorsett ahead of the Midlands derby between Aston Villa and Wolves, with both sides looking to return to winning ways.

And Michael Bridge gives us his verdict on Tottenham's recent resurgence, as they prepare to welcome Crystal Palace.

Listen to the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Podcast on: Spotify | Apple | Castbox

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