Manchester United v Manchester City: Go low on derby goals

The last Manchester derby ended 0-0 and Andy Schooler isn't expecting many goals when United and City meet in Wednesday's Carabao Cup semi-final.

Manchester United v Manchester City
Wednesday 6 January, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Football and Main Event

A cup semi-final between arguably the Premier League's most in-form sides. What's not to like?

Well, if the fact there will be no fans in attendance and a feeling of impending doom hangs over the country isn't enough, a few things actually.

First of all, this is the Carabao Cup, never the highest priority on any team's list, it appears.

Team changes aplenty have been made throughout the competition and despite a Wembley spot being up for grabs, more can be expected here.

The hectic festive period may be over but the month ahead is packed with three rounds of midweek Premier League fixtures so there's not going to be a let-up in the schedule any time soon. With both teams very much in the title race - United are in second on goal difference, City four points back with a game in hand - those matches will carry greater weight.

At least both sides have home FA Cup ties to follow at the weekend, arguably a better opportunity to rotate and rest players.

Reds on a roll

United will certainly be without the banned Edinson Cavani (pictured), while Victor Lindelof remains a doubt having missed consecutive games with a back injury.


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been able to bring in players and keep getting results though - it's now five wins and two draws for United since their Champions League exit in Leipzig.

They've not really caught fire during that run, only edging past Wolves and Villa over Christmas, but drawing level with Liverpool at the top warrants respect, even taking into account the stutter on Merseyside.

Illness problems for City

City's selections issues are greater with Kyle Walker, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson, Ferran Torres, Eric Garcia and Tommy Doyle all having either tested positive for COVID-19 or self-isolating. Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte have injury niggles.

Sergio Aguero's fitness also remains a concern, at least for Pep Guardiola. The Argentine hasn't started since his return from a hamstring injury with Kevin de Bruyne playing as a centre-forward at Chelsea on Sunday. However, City still managed to produce arguably their best display of the season as they eased to a 3-1 win. They are now unbeaten in their last 11, winning eight.

Maybe Guardiola goes with the same XI three days on but the manager's form lines would suggest otherwise.

The other key factor in expecting this game to fail to live up to its billing is the fixture's recent history.

It was only last month these sides played out a tedious 0-0 draw at Old Trafford and with that April Wembley final the prize on offer, another safety-first approach would hardly surprise.

Last month's match brought United their third successive clean sheet against City, who have now won just one of their last five against their local rivals.

Can Ole topple Pep again?

Solskjaer actually holds the upper hand against Guardiola, winning three and drawing one of their six encounters since taking the reins just over two years ago.

Even if you go back to the start of the Guardiola era in Manchester, a period in which City have enjoyed much greater trophy success, it's five wins apiece.

Fred and Scott McTominay have both enjoyed this fixture in recent times and I'd expect Solskjaer to deploy the pair as a holding midfield tandem again. They've had notable success in thwarting City in the past and could play a key role in a United XI which will surely set up to play on the counter-attack and try to use the pace they have in forward areas.

The plan worked particularly well against City at the Etihad last season when United were again happy to let their opponents have the ball - City have held at least 60% of possession in 10 of the 12 encounters since Guardiola arrived.

In short, United look overpriced to win this match at 3.7. City are at 2.08 with the draw at 3.9. It's worth noting at this point that extra time will be played in the game ends all square.

Alternative plays include laying City at 2.1 or backing United on the +0.5 Asian handicap at 1.9.

Goals at a premium

However, my best bet involves goals, or rather a lack of them.

Under 2.5 goals is the suggested play - it has landed in the last three derbies and four of the last six.

City, who have conceded only three times in their 11-game unbeaten run, may be known for their breathless attacking play but the fact is that under 2.5 has landed in six of their eight Premier League away games and five of their seven at home.

That represents a complete turnaround from the past three seasons and I'm not convinced the markets have caught up yet.

United's figures aren't as good, yet they've still landed this bet in home games with City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Wolves, as well as at Everton in the last round of this competition when two late goals took them through.

The 2.14 about under 2.5 goals in a semi-final looks too big and worth taking while it lasts.

Opta fact

Manchester City have lost just two of their 23 League Cup matches under Pep Guardiola (W17 D4), though both defeats have come versus Manchester United (in 2016 and 2020).

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