Kick It Out have called for "swift action" after reports of alleged racial abuse during the Manchester derby, a match in which United midfielder Fred was hit by a projectile.

A series of objects including lighters and a plastic bottle could be seen by the corner flag as United prepared to take a set-piece during the second half of Saturday's Premier League clash against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Fred was then struck by another object thrown from the crowd before play continued.

Television replays of the incident also appeared to show a supporter making racial gestures in the direction of the Brazil international.

Anti-racism and discrimination organisation Kick It Out later tweeted to confirm it would be speaking to both clubs over reports of alleged abuse at the game.

“We have been inundated with reports of alleged racist abuse from a number of individuals during this evening’s Manchester derby,” Kick It Out said.

“We will be contacting both clubs to offer our support and hope swift action is taken to identify the offenders.”

The body’s head of development, Troy Townsend, added on his account: “The evidence is clear for all to see. Let's not make excuses again."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tasted sweet victory in the derby as his Manchester United side stunned Manchester City with a 2-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium.

United were brilliant in the first half, as impressive as they have been in the 12 months of their Norwegian manager's tenure, and a penalty from Marcus Rashford followed by Anthony Martial's sharp finish made it their day. A late Nicolas Otamendi header could not save the hosts.

City now sit 14 points behind leaders Liverpool in the Premier League, hopes of defending their title surely all but extinguished by this result. Questions will be asked of Pep Guardiola's leadership, and how he has allowed their defence to become such a weakness.

But for Solskjaer, months of speculation about his job security can be swept aside for now. After beating Jose Mourinho's Tottenham on Wednesday and following up with a terrific performance against their 'noisy neighbours', United suddenly look a team to be reckoned with.

United's first three attempts all forced Ederson to make sharp saves, the goalkeeper denying Daniel James from the edge of the penalty area, then a lively Jesse Lingard and the marauding Martial.

And with City in disarray at the back, the fast-breaking visitors were handed a penalty after a VAR review when Rashford went down following a mazy run, sideswiped by a clumsy Bernardo Silva challenge.

Rashford slotted low and into the right corner for the 23rd-minute opener, and the England striker went close twice in the next four minutes: firstly, when stroking a shot just wide after City's defence was unpicked by a high-pace counter-attack, and then with a 20-yard curling shot that hit the crossbar.

Martial gave United the two-goal lead they richly deserved in the 29th minute when he swivelled and cracked a low, left-footed shot in off the base of the right post, after working the chance patiently with James.

City striker Gabriel Jesus might have narrowed the lead before half-time but headed wastefully wide from Kevin De Bruyne's cross, before the hosts were aggrieved to be denied a spot-kick by referee Anthony Taylor when Fred appeared to handle a cross.

Guardiola made his annoyance known in a passionate appeal to fourth official Mike Dean before the second half began.

United centre-back Victor Lindelof made a superb intervention to thwart De Bruyne soon after the restart, deflecting the Belgian's thumping shot over the crossbar.

Fred was struck by an object thrown from home supporters and appeared to suffer racist abuse from the same section.

Otamendi headed in an 85th-minute City consolation and fellow substitute Riyad Mahrez went close to a leveller moments later, denied by a fine save by David de Gea, but this was emphatically United's day.

 

What does it mean? A great day for the Red Devils, but a better one for the Reds

United have toiled and looked shambolic on occasion this season, the Premier League's once-dominant club becoming the subject of ridicule at times. But here they were terrific, a formidable attacking force in the opening half an hour and a disciplined unit thereafter. The one negative, from their fans' point of view, is that this result comes as a huge boost to arch-rivals Liverpool. Maybe Leicester City are the only team that can deny Jurgen Klopp's side now.

Angelino heaven-sent for United

Guardiola put huge faith in Angelino by starting the 22-year-old at left-back, ahead of the benched Benjamin Mendy. It turned into a gift of a selection for United, who found space in abundance behind the heavily tattooed Spaniard, James revelling in the space.

City's manager came into this season believing his defensive ranks were adequately stacked, but how wrong he was. Every team suffers injuries, and City's repeated buckling at the back this season points to neglect of that department.

What's next?

City wrap up their Champions League group campaign with a trip to face Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday, having already secured top spot. United, sure to advance to the knock-out rounds, face Dutch side AZ in their final Europa League group game on Thursday. Both Manchester giants then return to Premier League action next Sunday, with City travelling to Arsenal and United at home to Everton.

Manchester United midfielder Fred was seemingly racially abused during the Manchester derby, with the player also hit by a projectile during the game.

A series of objects including lighters and a plastic bottle could be seen by the corner flag as United prepared to take a set-piece during the second half of Saturday's Premier League clash against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Fred was then struck by another object thrown from the crowd before play continued.

Television replays of the incident also appeared to show a supporter making monkey noises in the direction of the Brazil international.

Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw have come into the Manchester United team for a crunch derby against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium.

Forward Martial takes the place of young striker Mason Greenwood, while Shaw steps in at left-back for Ashley Young.

Both Greenwood and Young were named as substitutes by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It means United will start with Martial in attack along with Marcus Rashford, who scored both his side's goals in the 2-1 win over Tottenham on Wednesday, and Daniel James.

With captain Young out of the starting XI, Harry Maguire takes the armband for the visitors.

City boss Pep Guardiola has made a single alteration to the side that trounced Burnley 4-1 on Tuesday, as England defender John Stones replaces Nicolas Otamendi, who begins on the bench.

United sit eighth in the Premier League and are in desperate need of following one strong performance with another, to show they can produce consistently under Solskjaer's much-scrutinised leadership.

Reigning champions City, meanwhile, begin the game a distant 14 points adrift of leaders Liverpool, who were resounding 3-0 winners at Bournemouth earlier on Saturday.

Few, if any, Manchester City players will receive a bigger roar of approval than Raheem Sterling when the teams are read out before kick-off at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The England forward will aim to inspire victory in the Manchester derby against United for his adoring public, before basking in its glow the following day – his 25th birthday.

Whatever the result, Sterling's quarter-century also marks the one-year anniversary of bleak but life-altering day.

"The way they were looking at me, I had to see where all this anger was coming from," he told the New York Times, remembering how he observed a small number of irate fans in the Matthew Harding Stand at Stamford Bridge, while retrieving the ball for a corner during a Premier League match City would lose 2-0 to Chelsea.

"I was listening in to hear what they were saying… 'Nah, that can't be what I heard'."

Television replays that quickly went viral on social media suggested Sterling's suspicions he had been subjected to racist abuse were correct.

This July, Chelsea also reached that conclusion as they banned one supporter for life and handed out sanctions from between one to two years for incidents at the same Premier League match. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to initiate criminal prosecutions.

By this stage, Sterling had long since altered the conversation.

'Have a second though'

"Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game, as you can see by my reaction, I just had to laugh because I don't expect no better," he wrote in an Instagram post the day after the game, in what remains a damning assessment of the atmospheres and sickening attitudes too often allowed to fester in football stadia – supposedly places of celebration and work for young athletes.

But Sterling was keen to turn the focus outwards, taking the opportunity to highlight the contrasting tones with which the Daily Mail reported on two of his young team-mates Phil Foden and Tosin Adarabioyo – one white, one black – buying houses for their mothers.

"This young black kid is looked at in a bad light, which helps fuel racism an aggressive behaviour," Sterling posted, before imploring news outlets to "have a second thought about fair publicity"

Troy Townsend, head of development at anti-racism and discrimination organisation Kick It Out, felt this reframing was particularly timely given the events a week earlier at the north London derby, where a Tottenham fan threw a banana skin at Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

"My response was, literally, 'Well done, Raheem'," Townsend told Omnisport.

"The week before, [the Aubameyang incident] wasn't racism to many. That wasn't racism to people who have never experienced the act of the banana being thrown at them or being called a monkey.

"So, Raheem's was a massive, great step. It let the media look at each other and I think that's massive. In one post he's made elements of the media change."

Far from being hindered by the increased focus upon him as an eloquent and reluctant role model, Sterling has gone from strength to strength on the field.

That treble feeling

A brace in May's FA Cup final saw him conclude last season with 25 club goals in all competitions as City claimed an unprecedented domestic treble – the first part of which, the EFL Cup, came as Sterling steered the decisive kick in a penalty shoot-out against Chelsea into the top corner.

There have been hat-tricks in the Champions League and for England, who he captained in June's Nations League Finals semi-final versus the Netherlands. Now a reliable goalscorer for his country, he netted eight in qualification for Euro 2020.

The industry he urged to take a look at itself honoured Sterling, the 2018-19 Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year. The BBC's Sports Personality of the Year gong could be added to his collection this month.

"It's all about mentality. Mentality, maturity and growing up," Sterling said ahead of the showdown with United.

"I'm obsessed with football, obsessed with scoring goals, obsessed with recovering quicker and obsessed with improving myself."

Spiralling numbers show how fruitful that obsession has been, while Sterling's maturity – a scuffle with Joe Gomez on international duty aside – is frequently evident.

Every time he intervenes on issues of racism, be it responding to he and England team-mates receiving abuse in Montenegro and Bulgaria, defending Italy striker Moise Kean or supporting Newport County Under-14 goalkeeper Ethan Ross, Sterling strikes at the heart of the issue and is a force for good.

He covered the funeral costs of Crystal Palace youth player Damary Dawkins, who tragically lost his battle with leukaemia, having dedicated an England goal against the Czech Republic to the 13-year-old.

Raheem the role model

Other examples of Sterling's community mindedness could be found when he arranged tickets to City's FA Cup semi-final against Brighton and Hove Albion for 550 pupils from his old school, while last month he urged those able to among his 2.2million Twitter follows to register to vote in the upcoming UK general election.

"He's a young, black role model for so many young people. His status will go far and beyond football, that's for sure," said Townsend, who feels Sterling can align with some of British football's true pioneers and icons.

"You will have young people not just wanting to be Raheem Sterling the footballer, but who will want to be Raheem Sterling the human being.

"I take that as the kind of impact John Barnes had, when he was almost fighting racism by himself. Or Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson when they were at West Brom.

"With those forefathers, the generation before him, he will be recognised as someone who's had a massive influence and impact.

"That's probably the most powerful legacy of that post a year ago. He will have empowered many people to stand up for themselves, stand up for their rights and stand up for who they are as human beings."

Townsend is at pains to point out Sterling cannot be the "be-all and end-all" in the fight against racism, and that burden must never be placed upon any single person.

But, as Manchester United look to repel the City star's on-field obsession, it is to his immense credit he has managed to shed so much light a year on from that dark day.

It's March 2016. Excitement and expectation are through the roof for one particular teenager ahead of his first Manchester derby.

The local lad had already risen to the occasion in the Europa League and against Arsenal, but this was a far bigger deal for the 18-year-old who'd grown up a Manchester United fan.

Marcus Rashford started in attack with Antony Martial and their pace and mobility proving a lethal combination, particularly with respect to the former.

Highlighting his ice-cold mentality on the big stage, Rashford was decisive. Roasting Manchester City defender Martin Demichelis in the 16th minute, the striker nutmegged him at pace and left the experienced centre-back for dead before clinically dispatching past Joe Hart.

If onlookers hadn't sat up and taken notice already after his heroics against Arsenal and Midtjylland, they were now. Rashford proved he was no mere flash in the pan.

A leader's mentality

Since that bright debut derby, Rashford has gone on to feature another seven times against City and he'll be desperate to leave is mark in Saturday's clash. It is the sort of occasion that has started to typify his status as a big-game player with an elite mentality.

Rashford's most recent Manchester derby came in April, as City comfortably dispatched of United 2-0 at Old Trafford. It was this encounter that seemed to suggest their wretched form after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's permanent appointment was anything but a blip.

More than anyone, Rashford was scathing of United.

"It was quite clear who the better team was," Rashford said to Sky Sports. "We didn't play like Man United and the last few weeks it hasn't felt like Man United. It's not right. The bare minimum should be to work hard and give your all for the supporters and the badge.

"We need the mentality and willingness of running for your team. We never call each other out but we have to be real with each other. It's a matter of trying to improve each other."

While some may have put Rashford's comments down to 'holier than thou' posturing in an attempt to win a new contract, which duly arrived in July, there's little doubt he is now the talisman that should be speaking out.

Motivation an issue?

Rashford has become the player many fans are still hoping Martial will develop into. With nine goals in 15 Premier League matches, the England international is already just one behind his personal best for a full campaign.

With 12 goals in his past 13 matches for club and country, Rashford is in the form of his life – yet even as recently as this season he has been a target for criticism.

It has been suggested he struggles to make the difference against opponents who sit back, the games United are expected to control and data backs this up.

In 85 matches against teams not in the current top four or traditionally part of the so-called 'big six', Rashford has scored just 19 times, an average of one every 275.9 minutes.

It's a record that does raise valid concerns – after all, the best strikers score against pretty much everyone and anyone.

At home on the big stage

But what highlights Rashford's true ability and gives a clear insight to his mindset is the forward's record against the biggest clubs.

In 41 Premier League meetings against the 'big six' and Leicester, he has an impressive haul of 17 goals, one every 163.4 minutes.

Rashford's effectiveness in front of goal increases remarkably in such matches. Even though his shot frequency goes down from one every 28.8 minutes to 39.1 minutes, his accuracy is boosted significantly.

Against the biggest sides, Rashford's shot accuracy rises to 48 per cent from 40 per cent, while his chance conversion increases from 10 per cent to 24 per cent.

Rashford proved his decisiveness last time out against Tottenham and former manager Jose Mourinho, who often did little good for his confidence.

He suggested United generally do better against teams who don't invite pressure on to themselves – backed up by the fact they've only lost two of 11 matches against the rest of the 'big six' and Leicester.

And with a City side that hasn't kept a clean sheet in the Premier League for nearly two months next up, Rashford has another chance to prove any lingering doubters he's worthy of being regarded United's new talisman.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted the Red Devils are still a bigger club than two-time reigning Premier League champions Manchester City.

United are 20-time English champions but they have not won the title since 2012-13, with neighbours City taking centre stage.

Since 2013, City have won three Premier League trophies and Pep Guardiola's men are eyeing a three-peat this season as United struggle.

But Solskjaer – whose side are 11 points behind City – talked up United ahead of Saturday's Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.

Asked if United remain a bigger club than City, Solskjaer told reporters: "Yeah."

Solskjaer – a six-time Premier League winner with United after joining in 1996, months following City's relegation – added: "At least we play every year now! It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself.

"But it's changed in a way. Of course Man City are a better team now than when I was playing. I think football has changed quite a lot. I think it allowed a few more proper tackles - with every little angle, everything being scrutinised now, it's more of a technical, tactical game than physical and mental one.

"But, still, a derby should be played as a derby. We don't play basketball, so we're ready for that if that happens."

Solskjaer is hoping to build on United's 2-1 victory over Tottenham with another big performance against City.

Pressure is on City to keep up with unbeaten Premier League leaders Liverpool, who are eight points clear atop the summit after 15 matches, while United are sixth.

"I don't want to put any feelings into any other teams or managers," said Solskjaer. "We might not want them to be scared of us, we might want them to be arrogant and confident.

"For me, as a player as well, you don't have to shout the loudest to throw the sucker punch, it's not about shouting the loudest, it's about doing the talking on the pitch.

"City had an unbelievable season last year and are now trailing the teams in front of them as well. They haven't had the results of last season but they're still the best team in the league when they're playing the way they can."

Raheem Sterling believes he has transformed from a player who was not "living the way I should" into a football obsessive.

Sterling heads into Saturday's derby against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City's premier attacking threat, particularly in the injury-enforced absence of Sergio Aguero.

The England forward has become indispensable for club and country, converting his promise into prolific returns over recent seasons.

Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, former Liverpool star Sterling blossomed with 18 and 17 goals respectively in City's back-to-back Premier League triumphs in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The 24-year-old has eight in 14 top-flight outings this time around, the same number of goals he amassed during England's successful Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

"It's all about mentality. Mentality, maturity and growing up," Sterling said.

"I think now I'm living for football. I'm obsessed with football, obsessed with scoring goals, obsessed with recovering quicker and obsessed with improving myself.

"You have every facility here so you have to use it to the best of your advantage to try to be the best you can be. I was decisive but I wasn't 100 per cent committed. I wasn't 100 per cent living the way I should be living to be a professional footballer. I realised that and changed it.

"You see the improvements on the pitch and so that's why you continue to do it. Because you see how you feel on the field and what your output is.

"You look at what your numbers are doing. It's a good thing and, as a professional, you have to learn, take it in your stride and keep learning. That’s all I do."

An uncomfortable number for City to look at right now is the 11-point gap between themselves and Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's men won 3-1 when the sides met at Anfield last month and have only dropped two points all season, although Sterling is not giving up on three consecutive league titles just yet.

"We just need to keep winning games and hope they lose some," he said.

"It's as simple as that. They're playing some good football at the moment, but it's a long season. We have got to keep winning, keep believing.

"Football is a funny game and in one moment it can change. You have to be ready. At the moment, they're leading, and we just have to keep working and keep winning."

First of all, that means no slip ups against United, who won two and drew one of the previous three derbies at the Etihad Stadium before City ran out 3-1 winners last term.

"We're always fighting against each other to be the number one team in the city," Sterling added.

"That's always a great thing to do. Both teams have great players and great managers; I think this weekend we'll show nothing less.

"Playing against United is always difficult and we know it'll be a tough game."

Pep Guardiola conceded he is surprised by the gap between Manchester City and Manchester United since he took charge at the Etihad Stadium.

City and United – who meet in this season's first Manchester derby on Saturday - finished fourth and fifth respectively in 2015-16, separated only by goal difference after amassing 66 points apiece.

Guardiola's arrival at the same time as Jose Mourinho took charge at Old Trafford for the subsequent campaign was expected to herald an unforgettable new chapter in a century-old local squabble, while adding to the enmity the two elite tacticians built up when at Barcelona and Real Madrid.

It did not quite pan out that way, with Mourinho's EFL Cup and Europa League triumphs in 2016-17 proving to be a false dawn at United.

By the time the former Chelsea and Inter boss was sacked in December last year, City were on their way to back-to-back Premier League titles and a domestic treble that means Guardiola has lifted five of the past six major honours on offer in England.

City are 11 points better off than United heading into the match at the Etihad Stadium, the gap having been nine, 19 and 32 points at the end of each of the past three seasons.

Guardiola pointed to his team's 3-2 defeat to their rivals on their own patch in April 2018, a result that delayed a coronation as champions, as a warning of what can happen in derby matches, but he was realistic about the overall picture in Manchester

"My reflection is we were better. In the time we were here, we were better than United at the end of the season," he said.

"The points show that. Our consistency was incredible. It surprised myself, too.

"But in one game, another game, a derby, everything can happen."

At his own pre-match news conference, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joked about not always being able to enjoy Manchester derbies during his playing days as City loitered in the lower divisions – a period at the end of the 1990s in which Guardiola has become well-versed.

"We love our clubs. Each fan loves their club and that's why they support. It doesn't matter if you have a lot of success in the past, it's part of how you feel," he said.

"Normally the supporters want to see their teams win and win and win, but they support them even in the bad, bad circumstances.

"Manchester City, I learned in the history, in the bad, bad moments, always the support was higher or more louder than now.

"In the perspective of the trophy cabinet, they are better. No doubts about that. Numbers are numbers in that situation and they lift more titles than us.

"But we try to be there for as long as possible. For City fans, Manchester City always will be better, like United fans will always believe their club is better."

In terms of a competitive rivalry, Liverpool now concern the blue side of Manchester as they once did the red.

Despite an 11-point gap to Jurgen Klopp's Premier League leaders, Guardiola is satisfied with the efforts of a City team who stylishly returned to winning ways by thumping Burnley 4-1 in midweek.

"I don't know. One reason, no doubt about that, is the quality of the opponent. Their numbers are incredible," he said.

"I expected a bit [of a drop off] in the first weeks of the season after back-to-back [titles] but the players, I am not dissatisfied with how they play. I am quite happy when I review all the games we played.

"I don't believe the stats too much, but I know we are the best team by far creating chances and the best team by far [at] conceding few [chances].

"But we are 11 points behind. Something happened, I will try to discover."

A vulnerable defence without the injury Aymeric Laporte and departed captain Vincent Kompany has been frequently cited, not least after City stepped away from a close-season bidding war with United for England centre-back Harry Maguire.

"He's a United player, he decided to go there," Guardiola added. "They paid more than we wanted to pay and he is there.

"I think he's an exceptional player for United and for England."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has urged striker Gabriel Jesus to have the belief he can be a derby day hero on Saturday.

With Sergio Aguero still absent due to a thigh injury, much of City's goalscoring burden in their clash with Manchester United will fall upon the shoulders of the Brazil international.

Jesus ended a 10-game goal drought for club and country with a brace in City's 4-1 win over Burnley on Tuesday, which has boosted his confidence.

The 22-year-old has failed to find the net in his four appearances in the Manchester derby – three of which have come from the bench - but Guardiola has confidence in the forward's ability.

"He has to be himself – we need his goals. That’s why we won the last game,” the City boss said at his news conference ahead of the clash with United.

“We need him and his goals, if he puts this idea in his head he can do it every game.

"Confidence has to be there in the heads, not because of good or bad performances, winning or losing games. Not just him, all the players."

Guardiola claimed the mental strength of his squad is still strong even though they find themselves 11 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.

"There are some things that are undeniable, the mentality and how strong they are," he said.

"We have to learn, with all athletes, he would not be in the high level [he is] and playing if he didn't have quality.

"They can control it, they don't need the manager to speak to them, they have to believe they are good enough and show how good they are.

"All the time it's there, if they score goals the confidence rises, if a keeper doesn't concede goals the confidence rises."

City are 11 points of ahead of sixth-placed United, who beat former manager Jose Mourinho's Tottenham side at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Guardiola believes counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is doing a "good job" at United and will have them side fired up for the Etihad Stadium showdown.

"The history is huge and the quality of players they have has always been there and we have to try to beat them," he added.

"They are incredibly fast up front and at set pieces with Harry Maguire, they have the physicality and aggression. I have a good impression.

"It's an important game against a good rival with a big history. We play against a good team to try to follow the performance from the last game.

"It's Man United, all respect to what they have done for English, European and world football."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer encouraged Marcus Rashford to maintain his impressive scoring form as he urged Manchester United to show consistency in Saturday's derby.

United head to the Etihad Stadium with renewed belief following their 2-1 midweek win over Tottenham but will again be without the injured Paul Pogba, who has not played since September.

Anthony Martial will be available, albeit potentially from the bench, as United seek to make a dent in Manchester City's title aspirations.

Rashford scored both goals against Spurs and has now been directly involved in 14 goals in his past 13 games for club and country, having found net the freely since mid-October.

His pace on the counter will be crucial to United's hopes of breaking down a side that has not kept a clean sheet in eight attempts, and manager Solskjaer backed the England international to continue blossoming as a reliable goalscorer.

"He's doing that at the moment," said the United boss.

"How he didn't get the goal against Aston Villa is beyond me but he's consistently scoring now. It's not like four in one and two or three without. It's not just in spurts and that's encouraging.

"He's consistently getting chances and getting into better positions. On Wednesday he was unbelievable and we want to see that again."

Solskjaer sought to extract the same response from Rashford's team-mates after United ended a three-match winless streak with the Old Trafford triumph over Tottenham.

United have not won consecutive Premier League matches since March.

"We're going away against arguably the best team in England, so of course it's going to be a difficult game but we need consistency," Solskjaer said.

"I said it before the Tottenham game, everyone was doom and gloom, but it's a chance to turn that doubt into belief and for us, if we can manage to get another performance, the confidence [will grow].

"The way we played against Tottenham, if we can do that at the Etihad I'm sure we can come out of it with a result.

"People say: 'Why do you not have better results in other games?' But the Premier League is hard, no matter who you play, it's margins. I think it's a compliment to the league."

Solskjaer said he hoped midfielder Pogba would return from his long-running ankle injury before the end of December.

Pep Guardiola prevailed in his maiden managerial meeting with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and would dearly love another win on Saturday to remain in sight of Liverpool.

Manchester City did that with a routine 4-1 win at Burnley on Tuesday but their bitter rivals and next opponents perhaps took more from the midweek fixtures.

In overcoming Jose Mourinho's Tottenham, Manchester United shed a poor run of results and laid down some sort of marker for what is possible for a team that was in mid-table.

But with what Solskjaer described as his side's best display for a "long time" comes the need for another step forward at the Etihad Stadium.

 

CAN UNITED MAKE IT TWO STEPS FORWARD?

"We dominated the game and could have, should have finished the game there and then," Solskjaer side of United's first half against Tottenham.

They eventually completed the job against the Champions League finalists but what lies ahead is a tougher test and a true measure of the Norwegian's tactical acumen.

Daniel James and Marcus Rashford joined Mason Greenwood in attack on Wednesday and should in theory have the pace to trouble City on the break, much as Wolves did in October.

Rashford scored twice against Spurs and has now been directly involved in 14 goals in his past 13 games for club and country, a sharp improvement on his lean start to the season.

City, meanwhile, were back closer to their best in the convincing victory over Burnley but have failed to keep a clean sheet in eight games in all competitions.

Can the ageing Fernandinho cope alongside either John Stones, who professes not to know which games he will start, or the error-prone Nicolas Otamendi?

The man tasked with screening the defence could help, particularly as he faces a key midfield battle.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: RODRI V SCOTT MCTOMINAY

Rodri's thunderous strike at Turf Moor will have done wonders for the Spaniard's confidence ahead of his first Manchester derby.

The 23-year-old close-season recruit has had a bigger part to play in his first Premier League campaign than perhaps even Guardiola would have expected, in part due to Fernandinho's move into defence.

Rodri's ability on the ball was obvious before his arrival in England and it is of little surprise that his passing accuracy (91.73 per cent) is superior to the man he is set to meet in the centre of the Etihad Stadium pitch, Scott McTominay.

McTominay's average sits at 78.74 per cent but his importance to United was obvious as he helped the Red Devils end a three-game winless streak when returning from an ankle injury.

The Scotland international offers more in a box-to-box sense and has scored three goals to Rodri's two from the same number of appearances (13), while attempting 20 shots to his counterpart's seven.

That, though, is generally where his statistical superiority ends. Despite playing 178 more minutes, McTominay has managed just one more tackle and two more interceptions than Rodri.

The latter also boasts a better duel success rate (62.41 per cent to 55.74) and has laid on an extra seven scoring chances.

FORM GUIDE

City returned to winning ways against the Clarets after drawing on the road at Newcastle United, a result that left them 11 points adrift of Liverpool.

The club's record over their past 10 top-flight matches now reads seven victories, one draw and two defeats, those coming against Wolves and leaders Liverpool at Anfield.

United head across town fresh from a morale-boosting reunion with former manager Mourinho but have issues to rectify against fellow 'big six' teams.

They have won one of their past five away to such opposition and weaknesses were evident in recent trips to Bournemouth and Sheffield United, which reaped a solitary point.

HISTORY SAYS...

Guardiola's record in the Manchester derby makes for cheery reading for City supporters.

The champions prevailed 2-0 at Old Trafford in April, the Catalan's seventh win from 11 meetings with the team across town.

Another victory would see him become the club's second manager, after Manuel Pellegrini, to notch up three in a row against United in the Premier League.

The Red Devils do, however, hold the superior head-to-head record: 21 wins to City's 15, with the points split on eight occasions.

Liverpool cruised to a 5-2 victory in the Merseyside derby against Everton as they consolidated their lead at the top of the Premier League, despite a much-changed team.

Meanwhile, Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho endured an unhappy return to Old Trafford as his side lost 2-1 to Manchester United - the Portuguese has not won there as a visiting boss in his past five attempts.

Defending champions Manchester City thrashed Burnley 4-1 as Pep Guardiola made it eight wins in his nine games against the Clarets.

A midweek round of Premier League fixtures brought a range of milestones and telling stats, the best of which are below.

KLOPP ECLIPSES SHANKLY, PAISLEY AND DALGLISH 

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will likely need to deliver the Premier League title to secure his place in the pantheon of Anfield greats.

However, the German has put down a few markers suggesting he is ready to join the Kop's hall of fame by becoming the fastest Liverpool manager to 100 league victories. Klopp completed the feat in 159 games – quicker than Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.

Liverpool secured the win over Everton thanks to a brace from Divock Origi, and one goal apiece for Sadio Mane, Xherdan Shaqiri and Georginio Wijnaldum.

They are now unbeaten in their past 32 Premier League games which is their longest run without defeat in top-flight history.

Marco Silva's final match at the helm saw him become the first Everton manager to concede five league goals against Liverpool in a single match since Howard Kendall in November 1982.

 

MORE OF THE SAME FOR MOURINHO 

United's 2-1 win over Tottenham, secured courtesy of two goals from Marcus Rashford – taking his tally to nine in 10 games – made Mourinho's return to his old club a miserable one.

Mourinho has won none of his past five away Premier League matches against the Red Devils (D3 L2), failing to beat four different managers in that time – Alex Ferguson, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and current United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It was also Tottenham 35th Premier League defeat against United – more than they have suffered against any other team. 

Spurs' defence must also be a concern for Mourinho. They have conceded twice in their four matches in all competitions under the Portuguese – they only had a run of conceding two or more goals in four consecutive games once under Mauricio Pochettino, doing so in February and March 2015.

Midfielder Dele Alli has started to rediscover some of his old form, though, and his equaliser for Spurs was his third goal in as many appearances for the club in all competitions – the first time since March 2017 he has enjoyed such a purple patch.

 

CITY THREE AND EASY UNDER PEP

Gabriel Jesus' brace and one apiece for midfielders Rodri and Riyad Mahrez gave City some much-needed confidence with a 4-1 thrashing of Burnley – although they remain 11 points behind leaders Liverpool.

Jesus is now the third highest-scoring Brazilian player in Premier League history (32 goals), trailing only Philippe Coutinho (41) and Roberto Firmino (52).

It was the 36th time City have won a Premier League game by three or more goals under Guardiola – the most of any team in the competition since the start of the 2016-17 season.

David Silva's creative skills remain key for City and he took his tally to six assists from open play in the league this season – just one fewer than he managed in 33 games last season.

Burnley have now conceded 11 goals in their three home games against 'big six' opposition in the Premier League this season, compared to only two goals in five home games against the rest.

 

LJUNGBERG'S LOSS A DROUGHT-BREAKING BOOST FOR BRIGHTON

Managerless, beaten at home by Brighton and Hove Albion and now nine games without victory in all competitions – Gunners fans have every right to be gloomy.

Arsenal's 2-1 loss to the Seagulls made this their longest winless streak since a run of 10 between February and March of 1977.

Mesut Ozil registered his first assist in the league since February when his corner was met by Alexandre Lacazette, but the French forward's 25th English top-flight goal at Emirates Stadium failed to avert a first defeat for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.

Adam Webster had opened the scoring before the interval and Brighton were able to celebrate their first Premier League away win over 'big six' opposition following Neal Maupay's 80th-minute header.

Arsenal, booed off at full-time, have faced 52 shots on target in home league games this season, four more than in the entire Invincibles campaign of 2003-04.

Christian Eriksen is back on Manchester United's transfer radar.

The Red Devils are said to be preparing a January bid for the Tottenham midfielder, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

Eriksen reportedly turned down a move to Old Trafford earlier this year.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED REIGNITE ERIKSEN INTEREST

Could Jose Mourinho unintentionally do his old employers another favour?

Tottenham lost to United in midweek and are now about to receive an offer for playmaker Eriksen from their Premier League rivals, reports The Mirror.

The Denmark international has not featured in the starting XI since Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino and, though he prefers a move abroad, might have a decision to make when the transfer window reopens.

Seemingly not convinced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side a few months ago, Eriksen can sign a pre-contract agreement with clubs overseas from January.

ROUND-UP

- Leicester City are set to hand in-demand manager Brendan Rodgers a bumper new deal in a bid to end interest from Arsenal, according to The Telegraph.

- David Moyes wants a long-term commitment from Everton before agreeing to a second stint in charge at Goodison Park, says The Sun.

- Contrary to recent reports, ESPN suggests Patrick Vieira is not at the top of Arsenal's shortlist of potential managers.

- Error-riddled Roberto's ill-fated period as a Premier League goalkeeper could soon be over. The Guardian reports West Ham will look to sell or loan the Spaniard in January, with Turkey a likely destination, as they pursue stronger competition for the injured Lukasz Fabianski.

- Serie A side  Milan have offered Zlatan Ibrahimovic a contract that could run for 18 months and will demand an answer from his agent Mino Raiola next week, claims CalcioMercato.

- Diego Simeone wants Atletico Madrid to prioritise signing a striker over Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, according to AS. The Spanish newspaper links Krzysztof Piatek, Andrea Belotti of Torino, Chelsea centre-forward Olivier Giroud and Valencia's Rodrigo with moves to the Wanda Metropolitano.

- Staying with Atletico and the Rojiblancos have entered the race for rumoured Juventus, Inter and Borussia Dortmund target Sandro Tonali, says CalcioMercato. Tonali, 19, is in his third season in Brescia's first-team squad.

Wilfried Zaha deserves to play for a "top club" as his agent Federico Pastorello said the Crystal Palace star could leave during the January transfer window.

Zaha wanted to depart before the start of the season but neither a move to Premier League rivals Arsenal nor Everton materialised after Palace held firm.

Refocused and in form, former Manchester United forward Zaha has been linked with Chelsea, who are hoping to overturn their transfer ban.

Pastorello revealed Ivory Coast international Zaha could be involved in a busy January window.

"I think he really deserves a new challenge and a top club, because he is really a top player," Pastorello, who also represents Inter star Romelu Lukaku, told Sky Sports News.

"It is surprising me because I read about a possible move in the summer but he stayed again. But this season he is proving that he is very focused and concentrated, so think he could be another good opportunity in the January market.

"The January market can [usually] be really calm. As the number of transfers there is about one third as many than in the summer. But there are some very good and interesting opportunities for the clubs that sell, because maybe a club really needs that player and is ready to pay a little bit more because of emergency.

"There have been a lot of changes in the Premier League in terms of managers. Sometimes when you do that you need to face his needs tactically. So expect maybe Tottenham being a bit more protagonist in the market, maybe Manchester United too.

"Let's see what happens in Chelsea too, because the ban is not sure. If they remove that they may need to do something. In Europe there are some clubs like Inter and AC Milan that maybe need to improve their squad."

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