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Manchester United's selection dilemmas ahead of crunch derby with Manchester City

Watch Man Utd vs Man City live on Sky Sports Premier League from 11.30am on Saturday; kick-off at 12.30pm; Free match highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel before 2.45pm on Saturday.


We assess Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's selection dilemmas ahead of Manchester United's derby clash with Manchester City.

In a surprising plot twist, United's ability to play a back five may depend on the fitness of Victor Lindelof, who missed the Champions League game against Atalanta with a knock, with Raphael Varane out for around a month with a hamstring injury.

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Here, we look at the options Solskjaer has ahead of Saturday's massive game at Old Trafford, which you can watch live on Sky Sports Premier League...

Ronaldo, Cavani unleashed on City?

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First things first, Solskjaer would be adding unnecessary heat to his situation were he not to stick with Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani after their inspired performances in Saturday's 3-0 win at Tottenham.

Ronaldo has assumed almost undroppable status since he was indeed dropped - or rested - for United's 1-1 draw with Everton in October, scoring four goals in his five subsequent appearances.

Cavani's goal put United in control at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, but his work off the ball was the most impressive aspect of his display. The partnership between himself and Ronaldo - with a combined age of 70 - showed strong signs of blossoming.

"Ronaldo and Cavani play well together," Solskjaer said after the game. "They've got loads of respect for each other. The quality they put in is second to none."

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Lindelof out + back five: Shaw at left centre-back?


If Lindelof doesn't make it, but Solskjaer wants to stick with the back five that brought him joy at Tottenham, there is an option to use Luke Shaw at left centre-back, with Alex Telles taking up the left wing-back position.

Solskjaer has deployed Shaw at left centre-back only eight times at United, but the calibre of opponent in those games is telling: Barcelona, PSG, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City (twice).

Though results were mixed - away wins at PSG, Chelsea and Man City, a home win vs Man City but also defeats against Barcelona, Leipzig and Liverpool - it is clear Solskjaer trusts Shaw in that position in games where defending takes priority.

Solskjaer has also given Telles some game time this season, the Brazilian starting and scoring in United's 2-1 win over Villarreal in their second Champions League group game.

Lindelof in + back five: The ideal scenario?


If Lindelof is fit, the back five comes with fewer dilemmas, with Eric Bailly slotting in for Varane.

Bailly hasn't played a Premier League minute this season - Solskjaer even opted for a half-fit Harry Maguire at centre-back over Bailly in the 4-2 defeat by Leicester - but his performance at Atalanta was encouraging.

He was Manchester United's one-man defence, bailing Solskjaer's side out on several occasions in only his second appearance of the season in all competitions.

Given that, and the perceived need for United to stick with a back five, it's hard to see how Bailly does not make his first Premier League appearance of the season on Sunday.

Lindelof out + back four: A chance for Sancho?


Assuming Cavani is a nailed-on starter for Manchester United on Saturday, it seems the only way one of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford or Mason Greenwood starts is if United deploy a back four.

That would be a surprise, given how United's porous back four feebly attempted a "press" against Liverpool, but it does open up a space on the right flank. Rashford, who came off the subs' bench to score the third goal on Saturday, started in Bergamo on Tuesday, suggesting a starting spot against Manchester City is unlikely.

Greenwood registered an unplanned 50+ minutes on Tuesday, coming on for the injured Varane, and of course, there's also Sancho.

Image: Jadon Sancho has been on the fringes of United's Premier League campaign

The £73m summer signing has been named a substitute in seven of the last 10 games in all competitions, and it's hard to see how he gets a start on an occasion as big as this.

"Jadon will come good," Solskjaer said on Tuesday night. "He has a great work-rate and attitude, he was really sharp when he came on [at Atalanta], the first header he cleared for us and he was sharp on the ball.

"So they'll all have a big role to play and he'll have many, many years as a good player here."

McTominay and Fred immoveable from midfield?

Edinson Cavani celebrates his goal with teammates Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Scott McTominay (AP)
Image: Edinson Cavani celebrates his goal with teammates Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Scott McTominay (AP)

With Paul Pogba out suspended, Solskjaer is expected to opt for the central midfield pair of Scott McTominay and Fred.

The tried-and-trusted duo saw their big-game credentials dented in the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool but bounced back and proved they could still carry out United's midfield defensive duties in their encouraging displays at Spurs.

With Bruno Fernandes in front of them, behind a front two of Ronaldo and Cavani, there look to be few openings in Solskjaer's XI, meaning another frustrating weekend on the bench for the likes of Donny van de Beek and Nemanja Matic.

Van de Beek and Matic are yet to show any signs of dislodging the manager's preferred midfield choices, despite the pair of them having encouraging cameos from the bench in recent weeks.

Pick your Man Utd derby XI

Follow the Manchester derby live on Sky Sports

Watch the Manchester derby live on Sky Sports on Saturday November 6 - kick-off 12.30pm
Image: Watch the Manchester derby live on Sky Sports on Saturday November 6 - kick-off 12.30pm

Manchester United vs Manchester City will be broadcast live on Saturday on Sky Sports Premier League from 11.30am; kick-off at 12.30pm.

Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in our dedicated live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app.

Free match highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel before 2.45pm on Saturday.

Manchester derby preview: Man Utd's injury problems at the back | Must-win for Man City? | Big match prediction

Peter Smith is joined by Sky Sports football journalists Richard Morgan and Ben Grounds to discuss the huge Saturday lunchtime showdown between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford.

PART 1 | How are the two rivals shaping up for the big clash? We weigh up how Man Utd's injury concerns in defence could affect their approach, while we ask whether Jack Grealish is living up to his big price tag and the reasons behind some inconsistent form from the defending champions. Is this match now a must-win for them with Chelsea pulling clear at the top of the Premier League?

PART 2 | Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a winning record against Pep Guardiola so what's the secret to his success in this rivalry? And how will the clash go on Saturday? We make our big match predictions!

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