A defeat to Arsenal last Saturday (2 December) and many would have viewed Manchester United's Premier League title challenge as over for another season. That exhilarating victory in north London however tees us up perfectly for Sunday's [10 December] titanic derby against Manchester City with opportunities to make and break records on the line for both sides.
After beating CSKA Moscow on Tuesday, United extended an unbeaten run at Old Trafford to 40 games in all competitions. City meanwhile will arrive in the red half of Manchester having equalled the Premier League record for most consecutive wins – one more on Sunday will see them move out on their own with 14.
Should United's run come to an end, they will find themselves 11 points behind their neighbours; a surely insurmountable disadvantage. Efforts to keep the title race alive however took a hit last week when Paul Pogba was shown a straight red card against Arsenal which will see him miss the next three matches.
The club's record signing had been near-flawless since his return from a hamstring injury – breathing life into a United midfield that was starting to show signs of tiring. Ander Herrera appears set to come in and fill the void left by the Frenchman having previously partnered Nemanja Matic in the middle of the park during Pogba's injury absence.
The Spaniard has struggled this season but has shown just how effective he can be against top tier opposition – with his man marking job on Eden Hazard at Old Trafford last April a testament to that. Sunday's match may call for a more disciplined midfield role and with Michael Carrick ruled out and Marouane Fellaini rated as only having a "chance" of playing, he is likely to be given the nod.
Three at the back is the new world order in football and Mourinho's tweaked 3-5-2 formation inspired their excellent wins on the road to Watford and Arsenal. Ashley Young seems destined to come back in on the left after being rested midweek; a league recall for Luke Shaw, despite a bright performance against CSKA, seems unfathomable given the weight of this fixture.
The back three of Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo has proved to be a functioning unit in recent weeks but with Phil Jones closing in his return from injury, Mourinho may recall one of his preferred options. Rojo was rested midweek, possibility with this fixture in mind, so it could be that one of Smalling or Lindelof makes way.
Anthony Martial has now started United's last four Premier League matches, providing two goals and an assist in that run to take his tally to eight and seven respectively in all competitions this season – already better than last season's return. With Marcus Rashford starting against CSKA, expect the France international back in the starting XI on Sunday.
Playing closer to Romelu Lukaku has benefited the Frenchman and vice versa. While he is still to discover the lethal goal scoring touch that saw him net 10 goals in his first nine appearances, the Belgium international's superb understanding with Martial and Jesse Lingard has seen the trio produce some of United's best attacking moments of the season.
With three goals in his last two appearances, Lingard, another to be rested midweek, is expected to come in. Henrikh Mkhitryan's future looks bleak, having failed to even make the squad on Wednesday [6 December] for the fifth time in United's last six games. In this fixture last year the Armenia international was hooked at half-time. Recent evidence would suggest he will be lucky to make the bench this time around.
That trio of Martial, Lingard and Lukaku excelled against Watford and Arsenal but without Pogba springing them clear and supporting them in transition phases, it will be tougher against City and they could find themselves more isolated than in recent weeks.
Mourinho has one more card he can possibly play in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who he says has a "big chance" of featuring on Sunday. United's physical advantage over City could demand his inclusion – particularly with Pogba not involved. Mourinho will have to make a choice between presence and mobility when it comes to whether the Swede is included.