Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola.

Early team news for the 179th Manchester derby

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is currently unsure whether birthday boy Anthony Martial will be available for Saturday evening’s Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.

The French striker, who is 24 today, was omitted from the squad that recorded a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, due to a muscle injury that he sustained against Aston Villa last weekend. 

Mason Greenwood took Martial's place in the starting XI against Spurs, leading the line while also intermittently switching positions with in-form speed merchants Marcus Rashford and Daniel James. 

After securing that vital win, Solskjaer’s attention has now turned to the 179th Manchester derby and finalising his plans to defeat Pep Guardiola’s Blues, who also produced a positive performance on Tuesday to beat Burnley 4-1.

During his post-match press conference at the Theatre of Dreams on Wednesday, Ole gave this update when asked how long Martial could be out for with his injury:
“A little while - how long is a piece of rope?”
the manager told reporters.
“The City game? I don't know. I am not sure. 

“Of course you want to have your first XI, your biggest and best players all of the time, and I've done that once against Chelsea, and maybe Wolves. But it’s a squad game and the subs are so vital.”

Highlights: United 2 Tottenham 1Video

ELSEWHERE IN THE SQUAD

United received a boost in midweek when influential youngster Scott McTominay returned to the starting XI, to produce a combative performance alongside central midfielder partner Fred. 

Solskjaer was full of praise for both players after the final whistle against Spurs and that suggests they may retain their places on Saturday, but the boss could yet have more options available to him. 

Ole revealed last week that Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba are training again, after their recent spells out with injuries, and we hope for a positive update in Friday’s pre-match press conference.  

Elsewhere, in defence, long-term absentees Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot and Tim Fosu-Mensah are all working hard at the Aon Training Complex as they look to return from injury in the coming weeks. 

Marcos Rojo has not appeared since the win over Brighton & Hove Albion on 10 November, due to a muscle injury that he picked up in training. 

Make sure you watch Solskjaer’s press conference from 10:00 GMT on Friday morning, in our Official App or on MUTV, for the latest news and views ahead of the derby. 

FOCUS ON THE OPPOSITION

City are set to welcome Ilkay Gundogan back into the starting XI after the German midfielder missed their Premier League win over Burnley in midweek due to a one-game suspension. 

It has been reported that full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko may also come back from injury, after recently returning to training, but it is currently unclear whether the Ukrainian is fit enough. 

In terms of absentees, Guardiola has already stated that star striker Sergio Aguero will not feature in Saturday’s derby due to the thigh injury that he picked up against Chelsea in November. 

The Blues’ influential centre-back Aymeric Laporte is still unavailable, after the Frenchman underwent surgery on a knee earlier this season, while Leroy Sane has also been missing since injuring knee ligaments during the FA Community Shield match against Liverpool back in August.

GUARDIOLA ASKS FOR AN ATMOSPHERE

After watching his side produce an excellent performance in midweek, which led to a comfortable win over Burnley, City manager Guardiola looked forward to the Manchester derby and expressed his hope that the Blues supporters will create a partisan atmosphere this weekend.

“Now we prepare for the derby on Saturday,” the Catalan told reporters at Turf Moor. “Hopefully our fans can help us to make a good game. December is a crazy month!”

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