January signings Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo have transformed Manchester United ahead of their Super Sunday derby with Manchester City, according to Jamie Redknapp.
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United go into the Old Trafford clash on their best streak of the season, having won six and drawn three of their last nine across all competitions. Recent results have taken United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, the last 16 of the Europa League and to within three points of the top four in the Premier League.
Fernandes has been instrumental in midfield since his £46.6m move from Sporting Lisbon, and Redknapp believes the Portugal international has immediately taken on a leadership role at United.
Man Utd vs Man City
March 8, 2020, 4:00pm
“The Bruno Fernandes signing has been huge for the club, sometimes it can just take one player to change the feeling, the way they train,” Redknapp said on a special Manchester derby preview podcast.
“I love his attitude. He dictates the pace of the game. And when you see him live you see a player who can pull the strings. He’s not gone in there and taken it easy, straight away he’s gone in and he’s organising.
The Bruno Fernandes signing has been huge for the club. Sometimes it can just take one player to change the feeling, the way they train.
“To a certain extent he’s like the manager on the pitch. And that’s what you want – somebody who can run a game for you. Ole must be so happy with that signing, considering they nearly didn’t sign him. They were umming and ahhing over the fee but he looks quite cheap now.”
Meanwhile, Ighalo – a shock Deadline Day loan signing from Shanghai Shenhua – has also made a fast start, scoring three goals from two starts, including a well-taken double in Thursday’s FA Cup win at Derby.
“Brilliant signing,” Redknapp added. “There was no doubting his ability. Even at Watford he showed glimpses and Ole obviously knew him, so they’re inspired signings and they’re the ones you want.
“If you’re building a team for the future, you’re not going to put Ighalo in it for the next five years but right now, as a stop gap with Marcus Rashford injured, Ole needed somebody to come in and make a difference and against Derby he was fantastic and took his second goal extremely well.
“And that will give him a lot of confidence. Even if he doesn’t start, to come off the bench and make a difference, that’s what you need as a manager.”
Redknapp believes Fernandes and Ighalo have helped to shift the mentality in the squad at Manchester United.
“There were a lot of games I saw earlier in the season and I thought ‘these players aren’t at it, they’re not pulling their weight, they’re not pushing themselves’,” Redknapp said.
“Now I’m watching them and they’re dictating the game, they’ve got a lot of possession, they look dangerous, and to a certain extent without Rashford, without Paul Pogba, people would have thought, well that’s their season over. But no.
“And do you know what else I really like? He’s not complained – we’ve not heard him moaning about not having Rashford, or Pogba. People don’t want to hear that. He’s got on with it. You have to get on with the squad you’ve got and it’s almost to a certain extent refreshing to hear a manager go that way because so often we hear, what can I do, I’ve got no players. He just got on with it.”
Ole: Let’s make it a classic
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thinks the in-form Manchester clubs could serve up a thrilling derby encounter on Sunday.
Solskjaer said: “They will feel confident. They have hit form, they are playing well. They have just been to the Bernabeu, winning there as well, and won the cup final.
“So I am sure they will play their game, we will play our game, and hopefully it will be a good one. Let’s hope it will be a 4-3, like we have seen before. There have been many classics. We will do what we can to make it a classic.”
Read more from Solskjaer’s pre-match press conference here
Pep wary of ‘incredibly aggressive United’
Pep Guardiola says he does not agree with suggestions Manchester United are a defensive side, and says he expects them to be “incredibly aggressive” in Sunday’s Manchester derby.
After Liverpool drew 1-1 away to United in October, Jurgen Klopp said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side “just defended” – but Guardiola is not expecting a repeat on Sunday.
“For me it doesn’t look like that,” he said. “When I saw the last games, they’re incredibly aggressive. I think in Old Trafford, that’s going to happen. They are going to defend and we are going to control a lot. In some games they defend, but what I saw in the last games is a team that is aggressive.”
Read more from Guardiola’s pre-match press conference here
Team news – Maguire, De Bruyne in fitness race
Solskjaer says centre-back Harry Maguire is “touch and go”. The United skipper missed Thursday’s FA Cup win at Derby after rolling his ankle in training on the eve of the game and will be assessed ahead of the match.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James have not trained this week with knocks so will also need checking over. Marcus Rashford (back) and Paul Pogba (ankle) remain out.
Kevin De Bruyne is doubtful for City after falling awkwardly on his shoulder in the latter stages of the Carabao Cup final last weekend and will be assessed.
Winger Leroy Sane continues to make progress in his recovery from the knee injury that has sidelined him since August but the trip to Old Trafford comes too soon for the German.
Defender Aymeric Laporte is still missing with a hamstring problem. Ederson will return in goal after sitting out the past two domestic cup games.
Analysis: Man Utd’s defensive improvement
One thing may have gone unnoticed in recent weeks… Manchester United’s defensive record. They’ve kept seven clean sheets in their past nine games in all competitions – their best run in two years. They’ve only conceded twice in that time.
Only Paris Saint-Germain have kept more clean sheets in Europe’s top five major leagues in all competitions this term.
Read more about Manchester United’s defensive improvement here
Manchester derby – how to watch with Sky Sports
Follow unrivalled coverage of the Manchester derby, wherever you are, with Sky Sports.
Roy Keane will be in the Sky Sports studio on Super Sunday as his former club Manchester United face rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford.
Keane will be joined by former Manchester City full-back Micah Richards and Jamie Redknapp in the studio, while Gary Neville is on co-commentator duties for the Manchester derby.
Sky Sports subscribers can stream games shown live on Sky Sports via the Sky Sports app or the Sky Go app.
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