LONDON • The eyes of the football world will turn to a wintry corner of north-west England today when Manchester United tackle Manchester City in a mid-season Premier League title showdown.
City, the leaders, are gunning for a 14th successive league win - which would equal the all-time record in the English top flight - and put a huge 11-point gap between themselves and second-place United.
But United are also seeking to set a record of their own by notching up a 41st consecutive home match without defeat.
It may be cold at Old Trafford today, but the fierce rivalry between the two clubs and the two managers promises nothing less than a heated encounter.
United manager Jose Mourinho has started to fan the flames by accusing City players of diving, with the Portuguese claiming that "a little bit of wind and they fall".
"They are a good team. They defend well, they react well to the moment they lose the ball," he said on Friday. "They have a good dynamic in attack, they have creative movement. They have amazing players, they have a fantastic coach, they have lots of good things.
Incidents Mourinho may have referred to
OCT 21: v BURNLEY Bernardo Silva won a penalty in the first half when Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope first touched the ball away, but caught the City midfielder's right foot.
Sergio Aguero converted the spot kick for the opening goal in a 3-0 win. Burnley manager Sean Dyche claimed Silva "cheated", but the incident was reviewed after the match by a three-person Football Association panel which determined that Silva was not guilty of simulation.
NOV 5: v ARSENAL
Raheem Sterling was awarded a penalty when Arsenal's Nacho Monreal barged into him, although Gunners manager Arsene Wenger clearly did not agree with the decision. Aguero again scored the resulting penalty to put City 2-0 up and they eventually won 3-1.
NOV 26: v HUDDERSFIELD
City were punished this time when Fernandinho was booked for diving on the edge of the area as Huddersfield's Rajiv van La Parra swung a leg in his direction.
The irony was that City still managed to win 2-1, and score, a penalty when Sterling was fouled in the box by Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lossl. Aguero scored the crucial equaliser and, to make matters worse, van La Parra was sent off deep in stoppage time.
"But if you ask me one thing that I don't like a lot it's that they lose their balance very easily."
Mourinho's comments echo those he made about Arsenal after last weekend's 3-1 away win.
"I leave that one for you... the Arsenal players on the grass," he told reporters after that game.
"The grass is absolutely beautiful - I think there is a desire to go onto the grass."
Paul Pogba's red card at the Emirates Stadium means he is suspended today and Mourinho refused to reveal how United will approach the City game in the midfielder's absence.
"You all want to know how we are going to play," he said. "I'm not going to tell. Even the players do not know who is going to play. With the problems we have with absences it is important that other players are always ready to play or be on the bench and come on.
"So the work is much more than the 11 players who are going to start. The players who are fit? Zlatan Ibrahimovic is available, Phil Jones is available, Marouane Fellaini I have to wait, Michael Carrick is not available, Eric Bailly is not available. Nemanja Matic is injured but he plays."
For Guardiola, his team are brimming with confidence but he refused to be carried away.
"I think United are fantastic. When the statistics are good they win and when they are not good they are also able to win 3-1 (against Arsenal) at the Emirates, one of the most difficult stadiums," the Spaniard said.
"They conceded 33 shots and they won 3-1. Few teams in the world are able to do that. That's why you have to be careful. They have the talent to do that."
David Silva has been passed fit after sitting out the Champions League trip to Shakhtar Donetsk with a knock, but captain Vincent Kompany is a doubt and City are without two first-choice defenders in John Stones and Benjamin Mendy.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN
MAN UNITED V MAN CITY
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