Manchester City vs Manchester United news: Title and top four hopes on the line at the Etihad

The 187th edition of the Manchester derby comes at a pivotal time for both clubs, as City look to take another major step towards the title and United continue their pursuit of the top four.

It's not long ago since Manchester City were crowned champions-in-waiting by the mainstream media. However, with Liverpool going on a six-match winning run in the Premier League, the gap at the top is beginning to narrow. 

Pep Guardiola's men remain top of the table and hold a six-point advantage over the Reds. But considering Jurgen Klopp's side still have game in hand, the pressure is firmly on Man City to maintain their winning form.

Manchester United, in contrast, still face serious competition in the race for the top four. West Ham, Arsenal and Tottenham are all breathing down their neck as the fight for Champions League qualification is set to drag on into the final two months of the season.

Making the top four is Ralf Rangnick's top priority, as the club ponders the possible implications of a season without elite European football at Old Trafford.

Bearing all that in mind, the Manchester derby should make for enthralling viewing this weekend.

When: Sunday, March 6, 16:30 GMT

Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Where to watch: Sky Sports

Follow this game via our score centre

Who is the ref for Manchester City vs Manchester United

Referee Michael Oliver during the Premier League match at Goodison Park, Liverpool.

Michael Oliver will take charge of his sixth career Manchester derby on Sunday.

Four of the five derbies officiated by Oliver ended with victories for Manchester City. This includes their 2-0 win last November.

Season stats 2021/22: Premier League matches (18), yellow cards (56), red cards (2), penalties (5)

Recent form

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (centre) speaks to Phil Foden during the Emirates FA Cup fifth round match at the Weston Homes Stadium, Peterborough. Picture date: Tuesday March 1, 2022.

Man City may be under growing pressure, but they're handling it pretty well if results are anything to go by.

The Citizens have won six of their last seven games across all competitions and have scored 20 goals in the process.

There are, however, questions marks regarding their recent performances. Two weeks ago, City fell to a 3-2 defeat against Tottenham. They followed that up with a 1-0 win over Everton in a game marred by controversial refereeing calls.

In their most recent outing, City claimed a 2-0 win over Peterborough in the FA Cup - not exactly an emphatic win against the team currently bottom of the Championship table.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after a missed chance during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: Saturday February 26, 2022.

Man United, on the other hand, have endured a lot of frustration in recent weeks.

Their loss to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup at the start of February was followed by successive 1-1 draws against Burnley and Southampton.

Despite coming back strong with back-to-back wins over Brighton and Leeds, the Red Devils failed to maintain momentum as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, before facing more frustration in a goalless draw with Watford.

The numbers behind recent Manchester derbies

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva celebrates scoring the second goal of the game past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester.

Man City will be favourites going into Sunday's contest, but that shouldn't worry United who have a strong recent record against their rivals.

Ralf Rangnick's men have won this fixture three times over the last two years. What's more, two of those victories have come away at the Etihad.

Interestingly, City have only won one of their last seven home Manchester derbies. If that wasn't bad enough, they are on a run of three straight defeats when it comes to playing United at the Etihad.

Last six Manchester derbies

November 6, 2021 - Man United 0-2 Man City

March 7, 2021 - Man City 0-2 Man United

January 6, 2021 - Man United 0-2 Man City (League Cup)

December 12, 2020 - Man United 0-0 Man City

March 8, 2020 - Man United 2-0 Man City

January 29, 2020 - Man City 0-1 Man United (League Cup)

Players in form

Manchester City's Rodri applauds the fans after the Emirates FA Cup third round match at the Energy Check County Ground, Swindon. Picture date: Friday January 7, 2022.

One man who has been in particularly good form for Man City is central midfielder Rodri.

The Spaniard was man-of-the-match during last weekend's 1-0 win over Everton having made 18 recoveries, 199 touches and enjoyed an 87% passing success rate.

If City are to dominate proceedings this weekend, Rodri will be expected to put on another commanding performance in midfield.

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: Saturday February 12, 2022.

With regards to United, David De Gea could be in for a busy afternoon.

The 31-year-old has conceded five goals in seven games and has often come to Man United's rescue - not only this season, but in many years gone by.

City might lack a recognised centre-forward, but considering the number of goals they score, De Gea and his defenders will need to be on high alert.

Managers' thoughts:

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on the touchline during the Premier League match at Etihad Stadium, Manchester.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola on whether his team's points advantage in the table will have any impact on the match: "We play against teams who are six points behind or 25 points behind. It's not a problem. In the PL we have been a lot of points ahead, at the start of the season we never expected it.

"United upfront and in the middle. Experience with Pogba and Matic, incredible energy with Fred, speed on the sides. Central defenders, Varane, Maguire, Lindelof all of them are experienced. I see this, I don't see 19 points behind. I don't care, we can win or lose."

Ralf Rangnick: Fourth place best Man Utd can do

Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick on how his team plan to beat the league leaders: "In the end, it is about controlling the game, not letting them play without pressure, because this is what they want, overloading spaces.

"The goalkeeper almost plays as a centre-back and the full-back a number six midfielder.

"For us, it is about finding moments where we can take the ball away from them and make the best of those transitional moments. It is up to us on Sunday to show that we can do that."

Predicted Manchester City vs Manchester United teams

Manchester City's Ruben Dias applauds the fans after the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday January 1, 2022

Man City will have to overcome the absence of Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake after Guardiola announced both men would be unavailable for the derby.

Dias has picked up a hamstring injury and is expected to be out for over a month.

In better news for the Citizens, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus are both back from injuries and are expected to feature in some capacity.

United could also have bodies back, with Scott McTominay and Edinson Cavani expected to return.

Rangnick, though, still faces a big selection dilemma following calls from some fans and pundits for Harry Maguire to be dropped ahead of the derby.

Possible Leicester City starting line-up: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Cancelo, Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Foden, Sterling

Possible Leeds United starting line-up: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Varane, Telles, Pogba, McTominay, Elanga, Fernandes, Sancho, Ronaldo

Manchester City vs Manchester United prediction

Considering City's impressive form and United's propensity to do well in derby encounters, we could be looking at a close contest.

Guardiola's men have a poor home record against the Red Devils, but they have been the benchmark team this season and their quality should get them over the line in this one.

READ MORE: Who is Fabio Carvalho and why are Liverpool so desperate to sign the England youth international? 

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