While Manchester United are still off the pace in their hopes of finishing in the top four, their 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea certainly gave the fans a cause for optimism.
United’s performance against the title favourites was one of perseverance as well as grit and the point that they did earn was just rewards for their effort at the end.
United’s performance against Chelsea last week was encouraging
While the draw against Chelsea has been a big boost, United cannot afford to rest on their laurels for too long as they prepare to square off against Champions and fierce rivals Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
United have been ruling the roost in Manchester over the years but in recent times, the tables have turned and it is City who are arguably the bigger team at the moment.
That being said, when City and United square up against each other – the form book usually goes out of the window and one can be sure that it will be an enticing encounter between the two sworn enemies on Sunday.
De Gea will be hoping to continue his great run of form against City
David De Gea has been in sizzling form so far this season and he continued his fine run with a fantastic display against Chelsea. De Gea was never overworked last week but the Spaniard did magnificently well to produce a couple of brilliant saves whenever he was called upon.
It will not get any easier for De Gea as he prepares to face arguably the strongest attack in the division in Manchester City and the young man will certainly have to maintain his fantastic form if United are to get anything out of the Etihad Stadium.
The United backline performed surprisingly well against Chelsea last week and as a result, manager Louis van Gaal will probably avoid making any changes to the back four which started against the Blues.
Chris Smalling was impressive last week and will certainly retain his place in the starting lineup with Marcos Rojo most likely to partner the England international at the heart of the defence.
Chris Smalling was impressive against Chelsea
The young duo of Luke Shaw and Rafael look set to continue in the full back positions as well and the two will undoubtedly have to do well in defence as well as going forward against an extremely strong Manchester City side.
Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Paddy McNair are still struggling with injuries but young Tyler Blackett is fit enough to make the bench.
Star man Wayne Rooney is available after serving his three match ban and although his involvement had been put in question following a foot injury that he suffered in training, the striker is believed to be fit enough to start against City.
The return of Rooney will probably mean that Juan Mata will have to drop to the bench and consequently, van Gaal may well be forced into a shuffle in his midfield system.
The returning Rooney could be used as an auxiliary striker
Daley Blind looks a certain starter in the defensive midfield position while Maroune Fellaini should also keep his place in the XI following his fine performance against Chelsea.
However, in the attacking areas it will be interesting to see if van Gaal continues with a 4-2-3-1 system or reverts back to a midfield diamond.
If the Dutchman decides not to change things around, Angel Di Maria will start on the right wing while the young Adnan Januzaj should retain his position in the opposite flank. Rooney looks set to be used as an auxiliary striker but will surely drop deeper when United are without possession.
Robin van Persie did not enjoy the best of games against Chelsea, as evidenced by the fact that he missed a host of chances throughout the match.
However, such is the quality of van Persie that he keeps plugging away at every opportunity and the Dutchman got his just rewards at the end with a fine equalizer.
van Persie will pose a danger to the City backline
As a result, van Persie looks set to continue in the lineup against Manchester City as well and with the support of Rooney – he will most certainly be a danger to the Citizens’ backline.
Radamel Falcao missed out against Chelsea last time out and it remains to be seen if the Colombian hit man is fit enough to feature on Sunday.
(Via – Lineup Builder)