Manchester United striker Radamel Falcao has been handed words of encouragement by City counterpart Sergio Aguero ahead of the latest instalment of the Manchester derby.

Falcao has struggled badly to impose himself during a season-long loan in the Premier League, scoring just four goals in all competitions and failing to nail down a regular place in manager Louis van Gaal's starting line-up.

Those struggles are likely to mean he will not join the club on a permanent basis this summer, with an exit from AS Monaco virtually assured.

Instead, Juventus have been widely linked with a potential move for the Colombian, with Falcao's agent having confirmed the reigning Serie A champions came within a whisker of completing a deal for his services in 2014.

Despite a lack of impact at Manchester United, Aguero, whose departure from Atletico Madrid led to the club signing Falcao, believes his fellow South American retains the attacking qualities that previously made him such a feared proposition.

"They [United] have a number of very talented strikers. The one who in his career has been the most predatory is Falcao," he told Sky Sports ahead of City's trip to Old Trafford on 12 April.

"He isn't having an easy time this season, but I really admire his commitment and his class and qualities are permanent. He is probably one of the most naturally gifted strikers in football at the moment."

City travel to their rivals on 12 April in a state of disarray, with manager Manuel Pellegrini widely expected to be sacked at the end of the season following a disappointing run of three defeats from their last five top-flight games that has effectively put paid to any fading hopes of winning a second title in succession.

The 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park left City nine points off the pace and also saw them drop below United to fourth, a position that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago when Pellegrini's ageing side had begun to whittle down the gap to leaders Chelsea.

Manchester United, in rather stark contrast, are currently enjoying their best run of the 2014-15 campaign so far and a sequence of five straight league victories has lifted the mood around the club and given cause for optimism that they can avenge the 1-0 loss suffered at the Etihad Stadium in November 2014.

Robin van Persie will hope to feature among the substitutes against City after confirming he is back in first-team training after more than two months on the sidelines with an ankle injury.