Could Pogba's ban be a blessing in disguise for Manchester United?

Paul Pogba is confident his side can close the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester City

This was always a match pitched into the wrong place in City's calendar.

It's an intriguing fixture which will test both managers and a game which may well answer the one outstanding question about City. It will be a little step for us if we win this game, but nothing will be finished.

United are also aware that they need to strengthen to close the gap on rivals City at the top of the Premier League. No stories of Lacazette or David Silva. Rashford could certainly outpace Delph in a sprint and United picking two rapid wingers might make Guardiola twice about getting his full backs, Delph and Kyle Walker, to attack so much. City's last three games, against West Ham, Southampton and Huddersfield, were all won 2-1 with a late goal and have all followed a similar pattern. It has so many arms that it is almost impossible to shut down all the channels and be sure that you have nullified the threat.

"I would have been more confident of United ending City's run of successive Premier league wins, which now stands at 13, had Paul Pogba been available but I am convinced we will see goals at Old Trafford in what promises to be a wonderful end to the weekend action", Owen told BetVictor.

The midfielder will serve a three-match suspension for this challenge on Hector Bellerin
The midfielder will serve a three-match suspension for this challenge on Hector Bellerin

It is hard to turn away from the feeling that, for both these clubs, this match represents something of a pivotal point in the season, if not in the wider scale of things, too. And also went on to score two against Arsenal in his Premier League debut, and then scored the only goal in the Manchester derby, making him the youngest ever scorer in a Manchester derby in the Premier League era. This is the Portuguese's second season in charge at Old Trafford, traditionally one which bears fruit in his well-documented short cycles at the clubs he has served.

City lead Jose Mourinho's men by eight points at present.

ICC organisers are concerned that Europe's top clubs will be without many of their biggest names following next summer's World Cup, and as a result they are weighing up whether to cancel the Asian section and condense the competition. This outcome for United at the weekend will not be any kind of success. More importantly, it will show the entire league that City can be beaten despite being at full strength. Most sides can't, or are so overwhelmed by the challenge of coping with City's movement they are too befuddled to take advantage when they do generate openings - or, rather, openings to generate openings - which is why City have the second-best defensive record in the league but they have conceded in each of their last three league games.

There can be no doubt that this weekend's game is a pivotal moment in the season's train of development.

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