In-form United to put the boot into struggling derby rivals

Wayne Rooney is out to add to his derby haul of 11 goals
BEN CLEMINSON PREVIEWS THE MANCHESTER DERBY

DERBY DAY arrives in the North-West this Sunday as a resurgent Manchester United look to heap even more pressure on their stuttering neighbours Manchester City.

A look at recent history – whether in the league or in the derby itself – can tilt thoughts to either the red or blue half of Manchester, depending on where you’re looking, and the form book makes fascinating reading.

There have only been six draws in 35 meetings between these two sides during the Premier League era, but City have won six of the last seven encounters and will clearly take confidence from their recent head-to-head form.

This highly-charged fixture always tends to provide goals – their last six meetings have seen an average of 4.5 per game. United have also been scoring freely at Old Trafford of late, netting 14 in their last six home games.

City are reeling from three defeats in their last five league games and Betway make City 7/1 to miss out on a Champions League place. They make their way to Old Trafford to face rivals buoyant from victories over Tottenham and Liverpool, other rivals also eager to cement a top-four spot.

To heap even more pressure on the visitors, star striker Sergio Aguero hasn’t scored in six and speculation about the future of boss Manuel Pellegrini can’t be helping preparations. The vultures are circling for the Chilean manager, who is overseeing the team’s worst run since Mark Hughes was dismissed in 2009.

The champions’ inconsistency has all but ended their title challenge, with the gap to Chelsea now nine points. Realistically, they’ll be looking to top the chasing pack, with two points between City in fourth and Arsenal in second.

However, key performers including Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Aguero have struggled to deliver on a consistent basis and much will rely on them bringing their big-game temperament.

Pellegrini’s opposite number, Louis van Gaal, has also had to dodge his fair share of criticism this season after a mediocre start to a campaign which only gathered pace at the turn of the year. A run of five league victories has eased the discontent of United fans and their side have leapfrogged City into third.

Wayne Rooney, with 11 Manchester derby goals, will again be the talisman, but is ably supported by Ander Herrera, who netted twice in United’s last fixture against Aston Villa.

Going on form alone, United should seal a home win at 6/4 with Betway, but expect City to turn it up a notch in such an important fixture. They’re not much bigger at 7/4.

Total goals are trading at 2.7-2.9 with Sporting Index. That looks a very reasonable quote as three goals would secure a small profit and, with the game’s free-scoring history and United’s strike force so effective at home, is a decent buy.

■ Pointers…
Manchester United at 6/4 with Betway
Buy total goals at 2.9 with Sporting Index