Manchester United travel to the Etihad Stadium for the first derby of the season tomorrow.

Manchester City are 11 points and three places ahead of United in the Premier League table, who have just the one league away win this season.

But there are still reasons for red optimism ahead of the trip to the blue half of town and we’ve picked out three.

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City’s defensive struggles

Plenty has been made of the way Aymeric Laporte’s long term injury has derailed City’s defence.

That should amuse – or perhaps bemuse – United fans who have watched their side struggle with central defensive injuries for many seasons without it being put foward as a mitigating factor.

Pep Guardiola’s side haven’t kept a league clean sheet since 26 October and twice squandered the lead against Newcastle last weekend.

City are lacking confidence defensively and it has impacted their pressing game as Guardiola seeks a more compact approach to mitigate the fact Fernandinho is playing at centre half every week and none of his full backs are playing well regularly.

Jose Mourinho tended to approach Etihad trips with trepidation, Solskjaer should be bold enough to attack. If he does, City’s flimsy backline may struggle to cope.

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Decent recent Etihad record

United lost 3-1 at City last season – when the gap between the two sides was as stark as its ever been.

 

But before that, the Reds had two wins and a draw to show for their three previous visits to the Etihad, stretching back to Louis van Gaal’s final derby in charge.

City’s squad has been superior to United’s for quite some years now, but that has not always manifested itself on the day when the pair meet on City soil.

The likes of Ashley Young, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard know exactly what it takes to turn City over on their own patch – more than once – and will hope to do it again tomorrow.

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Rashford is the fixture’s form attacker

City’s array of attacking options trumps United’s but Guardiola does not boast a forward on better form than Marcus Rashford right now.

He has ten goals in his past 11 games and was absolutely outstanding in the 2-1 victory over Tottenham in midweek.

Meanwhile, Sergio Aguero is injured and Raheem Sterling has one goal in his last five league matches.

Riyad Mahrez has stepped up as much as anyone, but his two goals in three league clashes is not close to Rashford’s rampant form.

Rashford scored the winner at the Etihad in 2016 – his first derby – and if he repeats his midweek performance here, he could be the man to decide another derby.

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