After being shocked by Wolves last weekend, Sir Alex Ferguson's United squad has even more motivation this Saturday as they host cross-town rival Manchester City at Old Trafford.
The last meeting between City and United at Eastlands ended in a goalless stalemate and was perhaps the most uneventful match of the season for either club.
For United, this is the beginning of a stretch run that includes tougher matches than earlier in the season. The Red Devils have back-to-back road games to start March, when they visit powerhouses Chelsea and Liverpool.
Another match that looms over their head is a road game at Emirates Stadium against long-time foe Arsenal, who is currently breathing down their necks in the standings. Factor in the Champions League quarter-finals, and suddenly United is in no room to lower their guard. Perhaps the Wolverhampton loss might have been an early wake up call.
One key development in the derby is a line-up change for United. With Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans both out with injuries, Ferguson is inserting 21-year-old Chris Smalling into central defense.
For City, a major storyline is the potential 2011 debut of Italian striker Mario Balotelli. The 20-year-old star has been sidelined since late December with a knee injury, and might be in form to come off the bench. Meanwhile, winger Adam Johnson remains inactive with an ankle injury.
City is coming off a 3-0 home victory over West Bromwich Albion, thanks to a Carlos Tevez hat trick. Roberto Mancini hopes the momentum from that victory will carry over Saturday. A victory for City at Old Trafford would put them 2 points behinds their rival, and can get them within a point of second-place Arsenal.
The match features the two best goal scorers in the Premiership. United striker Dimitar Berbatov leads all goal scorers with 19, while City Tevez is right behind him at 18. In the last meeting in Eastlands, Tevez and defender Rafael got into a heated exchange.
City is trying to erase a bad memory from their most recent trip to United's home field. The last time City played at Old Trafford was in January 2010, and they were soundly defeated, 3-1.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
G: Edwin Van der Sar
D: Rafael, Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling, Patrice Evra,
M: Nani, Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs
F: Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov
G: Joe Hart
D: Herome Boateng, Kolo Toure, Vincent Kompany, Aleksandar Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta,
M: Gareth Barry, James Milner, Yaya Toure,
F: David Silva, Carlos Tevez