In April 2012, the Premier League title race took another dramatic turn as Vincent Kompany’s bullet header gave Manchester City the advantage after beating Manchester United 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
The win for the Blues that day saw them leapfrog their neighbours into top spot before going on to win their first Premier League title thanks to a 93rd minute winner from Sergio Aguero against QPR on the last day of the season.
Almost five years to the day, the Manchester rivals do battle once again, however the stakes are a little different. With both Manchester clubs out of the title race for this season, the focus switches to finishing in the top four, ensuring Champions League football for next season.
City and United maintain fourth and fifth position respectively with just a single point separating them ahead of Thursday’s encounter at the Etihad.
The story so far…
Jose Mourinho’s men have failed to take advantage on many occasions this season when a number of the teams above them have dropped points, but his side get another golden opportunity on Thursday.
The Reds have drawn 12 out of their 32 games this season, with 10 of them being at Old Trafford, but the opportunity to finish in the top four this season is in their own hands.
United are going strong in the Europa League too, having realised that Celta Vigo stand in their way of a place in the final of the competition. Success in this is another path that leads to Champions League football next season.
However, a second successive win for the Reds at the Etihad this week will see them jump above City and possibly Liverpool, depending on the result.
As for Pep Guardiola’s side, they were dumped out of the FA Cup by Arsenal on Sunday after suffering a 2-1 extra time defeat at Wembley.
The cause for concern is that Guardiola will finish his first season in England without a trophy, and it’s imperative that he secures Champions League football next year.
Like United, City have a number of games in-hand over Liverpool who sit in third place on 66 points.
Previous meetings this season
Its one a piece already this season as City were winners when they visited Old Trafford earlier in the campaign. Goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho for the Blues helped them to the three points, despite a goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the stroke of half time.
However, Juan Mata’s second-half strike in the EFL Cup helped secure a 1-0 win at Old Trafford – a win which was followed up by success in that trophy in February.
The early team news suggests that City will be monitoring top scorer, Aguero after the Argentina international picked up a knock in the defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.
Playmaker, David Silva is also a doubt for the Blues after coming off in the first half at Wembley, while Fernandinho, John Stones and Bacary Sagna are all racing to be fit for action. However, the game might have come too soon for striker Gabriel Jesus, who has been out of action since early February.
As for United, they suffered major blows to Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo during last weeks Europa League win over Anderlecht as the pair suffered “significant” knee injuries ruling them out until the end of the season, at least.
Further to this, Paul Pogba will be assessed before the trip to City after the Frenchman was forced off in the dying embers of Sunday’s 2-0 win against Burnley at Turf Moor.
Juan Mata, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will too be absent from the game after sustaining injuries in previous weeks, while Antonio Valencia is set to return to right-back after missing the Burnley victory.