Manchester United and Manchester City lock horns for the 183rd time on Saturday, with just one point and one place separating the near-neighbours in the premier league table.
Both clubs endured disappointing starts to their respective campaigns, but have begun to climb the table in recent weeks and would stay in touch with the leading pack with victory in this match.
All has not been well for either of these teams so far this season and, while Man City do now seem to be finding their feet, Man United continue to struggle with inconsistency and vastly differing home and away form.
Defeat to RB Leipzig in midweek condemned them to Europa League football again after Christmas, despite getting themselves into a position where they only needed one point from their final two games to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League.
The 3-2 loss in Leipzig, which followed a 3-1 home defeat to Paris Saint-Germain a week earlier, was only made to look a little more respectable by two late goals for the Red Devils as they threatened another comeback away from home.
That has been a feature of their Premier League campaign so far, remarkably coming from behind to win all five of their top-flight away games so far this season – something which has never been done before in the competition.
Solskjaer has displayed an uncanny knack of pulling big results out of the bag when he needs them most, and he has won three of his five previous managerial meetings with Pep Guardiola too – the best win rate of any manager to have gone head to head with Guardiola four or more times.
Solskjaer could also justifiably point to the league table as evidence that Man United’s season is not going quite as badly as many have made out; victory on Saturday would temporarily lift them to within two points of leaders Tottenham Hotspur, having played the same number of games.
City have by no means enjoyed a faultless season themselves so far, though, and they make the short trip to Old Trafford sitting below their bitter rivals in the table.
Indeed, whereas Man United are six points better off than they were after 10 games of last season, Man City are four points worse off.
Guardiola’s men are beginning to find the sort of consistency we have become used to seeing from them in recent campaigns, though, and they head into this derby on a five-match unbeaten run during which time they have not conceded a single goal.
Only Spurs have beaten Man City in their last 15 games across all competitions, while their victory over Fulham last weekend secured back-to-back Premier League wins for the very first time this season.
Guardiola’s men have now scored as many goals in their last two league outings as they had in their previous seven combined, while they could also keep three consecutive top-flight clean sheets for the first time since May 2019.
There will still be concerns over Man City’s away form, though, having won just once on the road in the league since their opening game of the campaign.
Defeat to Tottenham in their last such outing was their fifth away league loss of 2020 – their most in a calendar year since 2015 – and that includes being beaten by Man United on their last visit in March.
The goals have not exactly been flowing freely either, scoring six and conceding five in their five away outings to date, although that is still significantly better than Man United’s home record.
Solskjaer’s side have netted just three times at Old Trafford so far in 2020-21 which, when coming up against a team with five clean sheets on the bounce, does not bode well in this battle for bragging rights.
These two sides met four times last season, and it was United who emerged with the derby bragging rights having won three of those – including both league games.
The Red Devils have not won three successive league editions of the derby for more than a decade now, while they could also lose three in a row across all competitions for the first time since 2009.
Manchester City have won more Premier League away games at Old Trafford than any other visiting side, though, with six of their seven such victories coming in the last nine seasons.