The Manchester Derby is scheduled to kickstart on Saturday at Old Trafford by 1:30pm (WAT).
In three matches last season, both teams won one game away from home and drew the other. United have won four of the past seven games in all competitions, while Pep Guardiola has won five of his eight derbies at Old Trafford as City manager.
Can Solskjaer withstand another setback, and how important would a third defeat of the season be for the visitors’ championship hopes?
Following United’s embarrassing 5-0 loss to Liverpool at home, the fans are hoping for a positive turnaround as the manager’s job has an axe on its neck.
According to United insiders, everything is well and the club is still behind the Norwegian. However, if Guardiola’s side inflicts similar-sized pain, it is tough to envisage Solskjaer surviving, especially considering that even some of those who have backed the former striker in the face of massive criticism now believe his term at the club should end.
United has also positioned itself in a position where any unfavorable outcome is likely to result in an overreaction.
For example, following Tuesday’s Champions League tie with Atalanta, there was a flood of critical social media comments and foreign reports. In a different context, United’s draw would have been viewed as a positive change in the scheme of events and the late Cristiano Ronaldo equalizer a commendable sign of their refusal to be beaten when they had not played well.
Instead, there is more focus on an apparent lack of a game plan and more comparisons with the systems employed by coaches at other clubs making Ole’s job still at risk.
If Manchester United beats Manchester City, the two clubs will be level on points. However, if they lose, United could fall to as low as 10th place in the league table.
The positions mirror the uncertainty around Old Trafford just now. And given Antonio Conte is settling into his new surroundings at Tottenham as he secured a 3-2 win over Vitesse in the UEL, if United have to make a change, the biggest name available in the immediate aftermath of the Liverpool shipwreck is now unattainable.
Does United have a plan or do they still want to keep employing the mechanical approach of “good things take time” which many fans and even club stakeholders aren’t patient for anymore?
Despite beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in September, they are now five points adrift of Thomas Tuchel’s side. In addition, their goal difference is nine less than Chelsea.
City are two points ahead of their total after 10 games last season when it was widely accepted their start had been sluggish. After drawing their next two matches, City dropped only three points from their next 19 games.
Last weekend, City was dealt a serious blow by Crystal Palace making them as vulnerable as United is thus, Saturday’s match is presenting a face-off between two teams trying to find their footing.
With Kevin de Bruyne not yet at his best and Jack Grealish producing in bursts rather than on a consistent basis since his record £100m transfer fee from Aston Villa, Guardiola definitely has issues to contend with too.