Louis van Gaal believes this is a good time for his Manchester United side to travel across town to take on rivals Manchester City.
Had these two sides met a couple of weeks ago, you would have been hard-tasked to find anyone willing to back the Reds to triumph over the Blues. However, City have endured a difficult time in their recent matches, which began in the UEFA Champions League when they threw away a 2-0 lead against CSKA Moscow to allow the home side to record a 2-2 draw.
When they returned to England to continue their defence of the Premier League title, they fell to a second defeat of the season when West Ham United stunned them 2-1 at Upton Park. And four days later their defence of the League Cup was over, when they whimpered to a 2-0 loss against Newcastle United in front of their own supporters at the Etihad Stadium.
All this makes the result against rivals United all the more important on Sunday afternoon, when they will be looking to keep the pace with Chelsea at the top of the table whilst opening up a seven-point lead over their neighbours. Van Gaal, though, believes this is a good time for his side to take on City, and he is clearly feeling optimistic ahead of his first Manchester derby.
“When we play like a team then we have a big chance to win,” said the Dutchman. “It is not the greatest moment of Manchester City. What we have seen of Manchester City in the last matches was not so good. We have a good feeling about this match. Our spirit is unbelievable. I think we shall grow and develop ourselves. We need a good result and it could be against City.”
The poor form of City has perhaps taken the spotlight away from United, yet in truth, they too haven’t exactly been ripping up trees of late. They scraped to narrow 2-1 home wins over both West Ham and Everton, before relying on late equalisers to earn a point against West Bromwich Albion and, last weekend, Chelsea. However, at the same time, their form has improved since the opening weeks of the campaign, when they lost to Swansea City, MK Dons and Leicester City.
City had the best of both derby matches last term, firstly when Manuel Pellegrini won his first of such matches 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium. And then at Old Trafford, the visitors had it equally as comfortable as they recorded a memorable 3-0 triumph on their way to a second title in three years. Indeed, the Blues have won five of the last six league derbies, including the last three.
If they are to maintain this record they will have to do so without their magical Spanish playmaker David Silva, who has been ruled out for around four weeks with a knee injury. Radamel Falcao, meanwhile, looks certain to miss out for United, who can compensate for this loss by welcoming back captain Wayne Rooney following the completion of his three-match suspension.