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Manchester United Have A Chance To Humiliate Manchester City

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Manchester City regularly release footage of what happens in their famed tunnel before, during and after matches — the same one that high-paying premium supporters can observe from within the ‘Tunnel Club’.

It was perhaps a surprising decision to publish the pictures after their ignominious 2-1 derby day defeat to Manchester United a month ago, however it nonetheless provided an insight into the players’ states of mind.

The difference in body language between those in red and blue at both half-time and full-time was stark.

Anthony Martial, for example, was relaxed enough to enjoy a joke while heading to the dressing room for the break, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka puffed out his chest and got a congratulatory pat on the back from a United coach.

Raheem Sterling wasn't nearly as extroverted, shoulders slumped after an opening 45 minutes that few saw coming at the Etihad. He’d been marginalised and United led 2-0, contrary to most pre-match predictions. After the game United’s players beamed with delight and City’s looked utterly perplexed.

The fate of the two sides since that day have been more in line with expectations. City have won seven of their eight games, scoring 23 goals, while United’s up and down form has continued with four wins, two defeats and two draws.

Yet to many in Manchester, the most recent derby result is the most important one, regardless of general league form and determines their subsequent happiness. The fact these two meetings between the sides are in a cup competition, with a Wembley final at stake, heightens that feeling that the derby is all that matters. The pubs around Manchester will reinforce that point on Tuesday night.

Because just like in the 2009/10 season, when Michael Owen inspired a dramatic derby win in the league and United beat City over two legs in a League Cup semi-final, United would safely have the bragging rights if they won this tie.

It would pile more misery onto Pep Guardiola, who had previously boasted an exemplary record in derbies: only losing two from seven before last month’s encounter. One of those came in the League Cup, by the way, so there is precedent here.

All the talk pre-match from Guardiola has been about the United counter-attack, the Catalan clearly trying to show Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he knows how the Reds will play both at Old Trafford and the Etihad, trying to derail United’s best game plan. Solskjaer meanwhile has chosen to reopen the battle lines regarding tactical fouls. It’s classic big match mind games, of which Sir Alex Ferguson would be proud.

But in a season that, you’d suggest, will continue to bring ups and downs for United, the Norwegian would be wise to throw all his effort into these two games. Not just for the prestige of leading his beloved team to a cup final, however for the right to humiliate Guardiola.

It’s been a tough enough season for the City boss already, having seen his hopes of a third successive title slip away with that defeat to United. How Solskjaer would revel in making it even worse for his opposite number.

In a campaign that’s thrown plenty of obstacles at United, having the chance to lord it over City would be a big enough boost for many.

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