The latest instalment of the Manchester derby is not quite the title clash that Manchester United would have envisaged.
The Red Devils can cut the gap to Manchester City at the top of the table with a win but only to 11 points, perhaps merely delaying the precession to the title of Pep Guardiola and his men.
However, bragging rights are certainly up for offer and a key to United getting a result will be the performance of Bruno Fernandes.
As has been the case for many games since the Portuguese arrived from Sporting Clube de Portugal, he is set to be the Red Devils’ main hope.
In his time at Old Trafford so far, he has contributed 34 goals and 21 assists in just 62 matches – some seriously impressive numbers.
His contribution has even increased this season with Fernandes contributing to 49% of United’s 53 Premier League goals throughout the campaign.
He is also by far and away the most creative player in the entire Red Devils’ squad. According to WhoScored, he is averaging 2.8 key passes per match. His nearest midfield competitor is the lesser-spotted Juan Mata at just 1.1.
Even his teammates are aware of his immense influence since his arrival. Brazilian Fred has suggested that Fernandes “took over” the Manchester United midfield as soon as the ink dried on his contract at Old Trafford.
His creativity, dynamism and leadership are going to be even more important against such a good Manchester City side.
After a relatively poor start to the campaign, Guardiola has created a formidable team. The Citizens can boast the best defensive record in the Premier League having shipped just 17 goals throughout the entire season so far.
That stubbornness could suffocate United’s attacking players throughout the match, meaning Fernandes will have to be on top form if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aspires to take anything from the Etihad Stadium.
In the melting pot of the Manchester derby, Fernandes once again has to show his immense quality and display exactly why he has become the main star, not just in the United midfield, but the entire team.
If the Portuguese star struggles, it’s hard to see a way how United can penetrate what has been a fantastic City back line. If he plays well, however, then the visitors have a chance to leave the Etihad with a positive result.