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BETTING PREVIEW: MANCHESTER DERBY

Jack Grealish

Manchester United will once again find themselves at the centre of attention when they take on rivals Manchester City in the headline fixture in this weekend’s 11th round of Premier League action.

It’s been an intense past month of action for the Red Devils to say the least.

In the past fortnight, United have featured in two crucial Champions League encounters, claiming a win and draw against Atalanta to move to the top of Group F.

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In the Premier League, a horror 5-0 defeat to Liverpool on 24 October piled on the pressure, but there was a reprieve when they responded with a crucial 3-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer particularly faced intense criticism and numerous calls for him to be sacked, but he has remained defiant in the face of this pressure.

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“Criticism can make you doubt yourself, or you can stand up for yourself. I’ve always enjoyed criticism – just keep that coming,” Solskjaer commented recently.

“Journalists, pundits, experts — we’ve all got different jobs. I’m not here to fight with them, I don’t need a spat with anyone.”

And although United produced another disjointed display at Atalanta on Tuesday, they were again bailed out by Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliant finishing, which prompted Solskjaer to suggest the superstar striker is as influential as NBA legend Michael Jordan.

However, United did suffer a blow when Raphael Varane was forced off midway through the first half with what appeared to be the recurrence of a groin injury, while it can’t be forgotten that Paul Pogba remains suspended until at least 23 November due to the red card that he picked up against Liverpool.

The Red Devils will now head into Saturday’s blockbuster clash against City with another point to prove, and may see an opportunity to achieve some redemption at Old Trafford after the humiliation at the hands of Liverpool.

Last weekend, City suffered a surprise 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace, days after crashing out of the League Cup, and Pep Guardiola’s team are now five log points adrift of log-leaders Chelsea.

Guardiola has continued to insist that he remains happy with his team’s performances in recent weeks despite losing on penalties to West Ham, before then enduring a home defeat by Palace.

“The defeat on Saturday was tough,” he said. “We know the calendar and how demanding it is. I think we are playing at an incredible level.

“The way we are playing in the last month and a half – I would say (is) one of the best moments in the time we have been here.”

“Every season is tougher,” he added. “More contenders, more well-prepared, top managers. My only concern is where our standards are as a team – not success and titles.”

There will be plenty for both Manchester clubs to play for when they clash in this Saturday’s derby, with only three log points separating the two teams, and bragging rights once again up for grabs.

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