The gap between the Manchester rivals has never leaned so heavily towards the blue side of the city and yet, going into tomorrow afternoon’s derby, there is every reason to expect an upset.
Despite City’s dominance in recent years, the Manchester derby remains a date for which United always raise their game, especially away from home.
United have two derby wins and a draw at the Etihad in their last three visits, including last season’s extraordinary
Paul Pogba-inspired comeback victory. In the entire Premier League era, only two fixtures have seen more away wins than the Manchester derby. What is more, United tend to win at least one derby every season.
It could be that the last Etihad meeting, combined with the miraculous turnaround at Juventus in midweek, provides the inspiration for another red derby day.
It was from two setpieces that United scored as they came from a goal down with four minutes to go to win in Turin, while Chris Smalling’s winner at City in April came from a free-kick as well.
It is an indictment of the situation at Old Trafford, where hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on new recruits under Jose Mourinho, that set-pieces may well be their best route to success, but that is the reality.
Only Bournemouth have scored more Premier League goals from dead balls this season than United, though Eddie Howe’s side have scored four from the penalty spot. From corners, free-kicks and throw-ins alone, no team has scored more than United.
While City do not concede many goals at all, it is set-pieces that have proven their biggest downfall at the wrong end of the field. Three-quarters of the goals they have shipped this season have come from set-pieces, which is by a distance the highest proportion in the Premier League.
Why City should still fear United