Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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WATCH LIVE: West Brom vs. Manchester United

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The Hawthorns is the scene as Manchester United attempts to pull back into sole possession of second place on the Premier League table with a visit to West Bromwich Albion (Watch live at 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Baggies have several regular starters on the bench, with Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, and Gareth McAuley (Allllll the Gareths!) getting a rest.

United will hand starts to Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, with Anthony Martial on the bench with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Nyom, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs, Krychowiak, Yacob, Livermore, Burke, McClean, Rondon. Subs: Myhill, Robson-Kanu, Brunt, Barry, Rodriguez, McAuley, Field.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young, Herrera, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw, McTominay, Ibrahimovic, Martial.

Three things we learned from the Manchester Derby

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MANCHESTER — The Manchester Derby delivered drama in wintry conditions and it also underlined that this is Manchester City’s Premier League title to lose.

[ MORE: Mourinho calls City “lucky” ]

City beat United 2-1 at Old Trafford at a snowy Old Trafford on Sunday, with Pep Guardiola‘s men setting a new Premier League record for the most consecutive wins in a single season with 14 victories on the spin.

Guardiola leads Mourinho all-time with eight wins, seven draws and just four defeats from their 19 encounters, as United suffered their first defeat at home in 41 games in all competitions.

[ MORE: Pep delighted with derby win ]

This was also the first time they’d lost at home in the Premier League in 24 games, since they lost to Man City (who else!?) last September.

Here’s what we learned from an intense encounter in the Manchester Derby.


CONTRASTING STYLES CLEARER THAN EVER

“Park the bus, park the bus Man United! Playing football the Mourinho way!” sang the Manchester City fans from the away end at Old Trafford.

United did just that with two holding midfielders and long balls up to Romelu Lukaku, while City turned on the style and dominated possession and the tempo of the game.

United will point to Paul Pogba‘s absence through suspension as the main reason for their midfield failing to stake any claim whatsoever on the game, but the gulf in class between the teams during the run of play was incredibly vast. Just as we expected.

The 3-1 win at Arsenal last weekend somewhat papered over the cracks for United who lacked the dynamism in the final third they showed last Saturday, with Lukaku isolated up top without Pogba’s supporting runs.

As for City, their juggernaut continues. Guardiola’s men are the champions elect with a record 14 Premier League wins on the spin and they show no signs of slowing down. Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva may not have been at their fluid best, but they threatened to unlock a stubborn United defense on multiple occasions with Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane constant pests.

To add to their imperious form they’re taking the league by storm with style as “ole’s” rang out from the away end on multiple occasions. In the end, City eased by United in what is likely to be their toughest test of the season. That says it all.


CENTER BACK STILL AN ISSUE FOR CITY

John Stones‘ star is rising further as he sits on the sidelines.

The Man City and England center back pulled his hamstring in the victory at Leicester City last month and in his absence Nicolas Otamendi has stepped in admirably with Vincent Kompany also back full fit.

That said, Otamendi and Kompany had played against Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham with City conceding in each of their last five games and Eliaquim Mangala also looking off the pace as he stepped in at times.

On Sunday a mistake from Otamendi — he was caught out of position on a long ball from Marcos Rojo and couldn’t head clear — led to Fabian Delph mis-controlling and Rashford making it 1-1 right on half time. Kompany came off at half time with Fernandinho slotting into central defense, and then Mangala came on after City went 2-1 up.

Otamendi made amends for his first half mistake with an acrobatic finish to put City 2-1 up, but it’s at the other end where City will see their biggest challenges in continuing their incredible winning run.

It’s hard to pick holes in a team which is 11 points clear atop the table but Guardiola must know he’s at least one center back away from having a truly great team. He has one in Stones, for sure, and may need to acquire another one in January if they’re going to sweep all before them not only in England but in Europe too.


LOW-POINT FOR LUKAKU

Romelu Lukaku had an absolute shocker in Manchester United’s biggest game of the season and Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s shadow is looming larger than ever over the Belgian striker.

When United needed Lukaku most, especially with no Pogba, their big money summer signing faltered.

Lukaku was largely at fault for both of City’s goals as the ball hit him from a corner for the first and David Silva hooked home, then he made an absolute mess of a routine clearance from a free kick which led to Otamendi scoring the winner.

He looked short of confidence when he was set free in attack and although he had no support, the $100 million man was well off the pace and didn’t try to drop deep to get into the game. Lukaku has scored just twice in his last 13 appearances for United and just once in his last eight outings in the Premier League. It showed.

Twice in the second half he was set free but he hammered the ball over on the first break and then dribbled into a defender on his second break. On both occasions moan and groans were loud from the home fans at Old Trafford and to put the icing on the cake he was denied an equalizer late on from inside the six-yard box as Ederson saved superbly when Lukaku should’ve scored.

Zlatan, who came on to partner Lukaku late on against City, will now surely get a run in the team over the busy festive period. If the veteran striker delivers goals, how can Mourinho leave him out of the team? After a red-hot start to life at United, Lukaku has pretty much hit rock bottom.

Right now he’s not a threat in attack and he cost his team dear defensively in the derby.

To Man City go the spoils

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  • Rashford levels Silva opener by half
  • Otamendi pushes City in front
  • Ederson with amazing double stop

David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi gave Manchester City an 11-point table lead with a 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The win is City’s 14th straight league win to start a season, the longest run in Premier League history.

Marcus Rashford scored United’s goal, and the Red Devils finish the day three points ahead of third place Chelsea.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Kyle Walker took a fourth minute yellow for chopping down Ander Herrera.

Man City was on the front foot with expected possession, and both Herrera and Nemanja Matic were in early charge of upsetting the midfield apple cart.

Efforts continued in the City final third, but tame attempts didn’t trouble David De Gea. Gabriel Jesus thought he had something going just inside the 18, but no whistle was blown.

Countering was the play for United, who had a brief moment through the dribble of Anthony Martial moments before Vincent Kompany scythed down Herrera in the United half.

City would break through just before halftime, with David Silva keeping up his fine season by reaching high to chop a loose ball past De Gea. Jesse Lingard missed a header and lost Silva on the play.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Rashford answered in stoppage time, on the doorstep after Nicolas Otamendi’s skimmed header cascaded off Fabian Delph and onto the Mancunian’s foot.

That sent the match to the break at 1-1.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

There were changes at the break:

City went ahead on a clunky clearance of a Kevin De Bruyne free kick, as Romelu Lukaku sent an effort off the back of a teammate and Otamendi chopped the ball out of the air to make it 2-1 just 10 minutes into the second half.

Guardiola removed Gabriel Jesus in favor of another center back, bringing Eliaquim Mangala into the fray to protect the lead.

A cagey game became more so after that, with United wasting a promising free kick won by Lukaku before De Gea made a fine save on De Bruyne.

A second Delph error allowed another chance to Rashford, and Ederson had to get low to deny the youngster’s attempt at a brace.

The corner kick saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic introduced, but Rashford was offside before a second ball could find the mixer.

Ederson made two sensational stops in the 85th minute, the first on Lukaku with his throat and the second  on Juan Mata with his chest. Wow.

De Gea made a tight stop on Bernardo Silva in the final minute of stoppage time.

WATCH LIVE: The 175th Manchester Derby

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Here goes nothing almost everything, as Paul Pogba-less Manchester United hosts Premier League leaders Manchester City at Old Trafford on Sunday (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

It’s the business end of Double Derby Day on NBCSN, with the Red Devils hopeful of handing City its first loss of the Premier League season.

Sergio Aguero is on the bench for City in this 175th Manchester Derby, with Gabriel Jesus leading the line.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juan Mata are United’s best chance makers on the bench, with Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford poised to attack City.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Young, Matic, Herrera, Rashford, Lingard, Martial, Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw, McTominay, Mata, Ibrahimovic.

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Kompany (c), Delph, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling, Sane, Jesus. Subs: Bravo, Zinchenko, Gundogan, Bernardo, Mangala, Danilo, Aguero.

Mourinho: Pogba starts Tuesday, caution with Zlatan

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The Manchester Derby’s loss is the UEFA Champions League’s gain.

With Manchester United virtually locked into the knockout rounds for some time — but still needing to get across the line — Paul Pogba was likely to be rested for Tuesday’s match with CSKA Moscow until he picked up a red card this weekend against Arsenal.

[ WATCH: Pogba’s red card tackle ]

Now Pogba will miss next Sunday’s match against Man City, and manager Jose Mourinho will use him Tuesday.

Mourinho made the announcement along with the news that Sergio Romero would start in goal, Luke Shaw should feature, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out.

On Pogba:

“He is very happy to play tomorrow,” says Mourinho. “It is the match that matters. Of course he is a bit tired because it was a huge match last weekend and just two days to recover. He is very happy to play tomorrow and try to keep this momentum – since he was back form injury he has been phenomenal.”

Mourinho also explained that Ibrahimovic is not injured, per se, but has to be careful how often he plays and trains as he continues to work toward full fitness following his serious knee injury. The recovery allows him to be fit to play, but United has to take a measured approach with their veteran freak of nature.

He says he’s not thinking of the derby, but that’s unlikely. United’s weekend may make the difference between a true title fight and the polishing of a place in City’s trophy case.