The Hard Tackle lists three players who can have a positive impact when Manchester City and Manchester United clash on Sunday.

The blockbuster clash of Gameweek 27 will greet us to round up the proceedings on Sunday. Manchester City and Manchester United will lock horns at the Etihad on Sunday, with both teams eager to clinch all three points this weekend.

Manchester City began the 2023/24 season slowly, dropping points six times in the 15 rounds of fixtures in the Premier League, including a four-match winless run. But they have been imperious in the second half of the ongoing campaign, going unbeaten in eight outings while not losing a game in nearly three months.

That has not been the case with Manchester United. The Red Devils have been horrendous in the 2023/24 season, not looking convincing in most outings. The pressure is mounting on Erik ten Hag, with the Dutchman failing to make the required changes to improve the style of play and turn things around. So, Sunday’s game is crucial for his long-term future at Old Trafford.

The rivalry between Manchester City and Manchester United has been one-sided for the past decade in terms of trophies and position on the Premier League table. But the Red Devils have sprung a surprise in derbies several times. And as is often the case in such games, the underdog can also cause an upset. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle lists three players who should influence the proceedings on Sunday.

Marcus Rashford

Our list begins with a player who has not been at his best for much of the 2023/24 season thus far. He was a talismanic figure for Manchester United last term, with his goals winning them many points. But Marcus Rashford has been a shell of the player he was this time in 2023.

The English international has invited criticism from all quarters this season, with fans showing their fickle nature by giving him a raw deal. While Rashford deserves constructive criticism, some of the responses have bordered on trolling. So, it is hardly surprising that he came up with a rebuttal this week to insist on his commitment to Manchester United.

The 26-year-old now needs to step up and deliver the goods in the final third. Rashford will also be eager to improve his record against Manchester City, having managed only five goals in 19 appearances thus far. He once thrived in matches against Manchester City but has not imposed himself in most of the recent clashes.

So, rising to the occasion might help Manchester United clinch a surprise point or three at the Etihad on Sunday, considering Rasmus Hojlund will not take the field this weekend. Meanwhile, Rashford’s struggles have not detracted prospective suitors, with Real Madrid interested in him. He can compel them to launch the offensive with a game-changing performance on Sunday.


It might be bizarre to see defensive midfielders in a “key players” piece. But such is Rodri’s importance to Manchester City that he is the most pivotal figure for the home side heading into the derby against Manchester United on Sunday.

The Spanish international has not lost in the Premier League for an eternity, with his unbeaten run in the competition stretching well beyond 50 games. But what makes him such an important player for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City that the team struggles, at times, in his absence?

Manchester City might be the most feared team in the world. But the treble winners have a soft underbelly, even with Rodri in the eleven. So, it is hardly surprising that Pep Guardiola’s men are ripe for the taking whenever the Spaniard does not take the field.

He will add a layer of assurance and solidity in the middle of the park, protecting the vulnerable backline from crumbling. So, while Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne will hog the spotlight, Rodri’s presence in the midfield will ensure they can express themselves freely in the final third.

Raphael Varane

We end our list with another defensive-minded player. But that is hardly surprising, considering Manchester United’s vulnerabilities at the back. So, Raphael Varane’s performance will go a long way in helping the away side take something home.

The veteran French defender has overcome his issues with Erik ten Hag to become a mainstay at the back again for the Red Devils. And his presence at the back has helped Manchester United look more solid than they are without him in the team.

In addition, Varane’s exploits have paved the way for links with many high-profile clubs, including Real Madrid and Inter Milan. But that is for the summer, and the 30-year-old will be eager to deliver the goods in the coming months. How he fares on Sunday will go a long way in determining if Manchester United can snatch a point or three from the Etihad.

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