Man United host Man City in the fourth Manchester derby of the season in the Premier League at Old Trafford and there is confirmed squad news.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been included in the provisional Manchester United squad for the derby with City but Harry Maguire and Daniel James were not among the players who reported at The Lowry Hotel.
Wan-Bissaka did not travel with the squad to Derby County for United’s 3-0 FA Cup fifth round stroll due to a back injury, James missed his second game running with a knock, and Maguire sustained an ankle injury in training that kept him out of the cup tie.
There could be some kidology behind the absences of Maguire and James. James, 22, last week reported with the squad the night before the Sunday trip to Everton but did not travel to Goodison Park, whereas Anthony Martial – out injured for the previous game against Club Brugge – was not with the squad on the Saturday night yet arrived at The Lowry on the morning of the game and started at Everton.
Maguire has started every Premier League game this season and if he misses his first then Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof are expected to continue their partnership. Paul Pogba (ankle) and Marcus Rashford (back) are still unavailable but Pogba is expected back in full training next week.
“I hope so but none of them have been training yet since the last game,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of Wan-Bissaka and James. “We’ve got to look at them Saturday probably, [Friday]’s the recovery day.
“It’s touch and go [with Maguire] because he rolled his ankle and he twisted his ankle, but hopefully he’ll recover quickly. I wasn’t going to rest him today, so I didn’t give him a day off birthday-wise! But I hope he’ll be fit.”
United are unbeaten in their last nine and kick-off against City on Sunday shortly after Chelsea play Everton at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are still three points clear of United after dropping more points at Bournemouth last week, while Tottenham Hotspur drew with Burnley on Saturday.
Although United are striving to finish in the top four, fifth place would merit a Champions League qualifying spot, pending City’s appeal against their two-season ban from the Champions League. “We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves,” Solskjaer explained. “Keep improving and keep getting results.
“But I know it’s going to be tight. Wolverhampton, they’re definitely putting up a challenge as well. There’s loads of teams that want to get this top four. We’re one of them.
“We’ve just got to be able to handle and manage a squad well enough, rotate well enough. These next few games are important. If you can get six points against City and Tottenham now we’ve given ourselves a good chance.”
City head to United unbeaten in their last four league fixtures at Old Trafford – where United have only won two of the last 10 derbies. Solskjaer’s side have triumphed twice at the Etihad this term and the United manager suggested he could spring another tactical surprise.
“For 15 minutes definitely, our heads went for a spell there, thinking that we had to recover the game in 10 minutes. You don’t have to do that when it’s a cup competition and two games, so we’ve learned from that one definitely.
“I don’t know how [City] will feel. They’ll feel confident. They’ve hit form, they’re playing well. They’ve just been at the Bernabeu winning there, they’ve won the cup final, so I’m sure they’ll come confident. They’ll play their own game, we’ll play our game and hopefully it’ll be a good one. Let’s hope it’s a 4-3 like we’ve seen before. There have been many classics so we’ll do what we can to make it a classic.
“When you’re at home and you have to open up against a team like Man City, they will exploit that if you’re not 100 per cent. Sometimes being at home with your fans, you want to show them what you can do and beat your opponent, and sometimes you open too many spaces.
“That’s what we did for those 10-15 minutes or 20 minutes after [Bernardo Silva] scored a worldie [in the League Cup semi-final first leg]. Before then, it wasn’t a problem, before Bernardo scored in the top corner. It wasn’t an issue until our heads went for a little while, so we’ve got to control our emotions more.
“And we have, we have learned, so that’s an experience we’ll bring into this game, definitely. There’s not going to be any video [sessions] on Friday or Saturday because we’ve played them so many times. I think it helps. We want to play.
“My team is still developing, our team is still developing and you want to play against the best. We need to learn and they’ve been the best the last few seasons. For us it’s a great challenge.
“I’m sure we have an element of surprise, that’s not an issue. So has he (Pep Guardiola). It’s one of them. Everyone’s watched Man City quite a few times and we have to be ready for whatever they throw at us.”
Confirmed provisional squad members
David de Gea, Sergio Romero, Nathan Bishop, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Brandon Williams, Nemanja Matic, Fred, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira, Juan Mata, Bruno Fernandes, Odion Ighalo, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood