The 174th Manchester derby pitches a potential season-definer for both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho in their first seasons in charge at their respective clubs.
With just six league games remaining, hosts Manchester City sit just one point and one place above their rivals United in the race for a Champions League place; adding even greater significance to a fixture that never usually requires any added incentives.
The sides have not met on a Thursday night for a Manchester derby since November 1994, when Ukrainian Andrei Kanchelskis scored a hat-trick as the Old Trafford side inflicted a 5-0 thrashing on their neighbours.
A lot has changed since then.
A win for City could be pivotal, and would move them above third-place Liverpool whilst also offering a more comfortable points buffer between themselves and United who, on paper, appear to have a much tougher run-in that includes trips to Arsenal and Tottenham.
An away victory would see Mourinho’s men leapfrog their opponents and ensure a wide open competition heading into the final few fixtures, though defeat for the Red Devils would still leave the possibility of a place in Europe’s elite competition available via the Europa League.
They will undoubtedly hope to keep their top four option alive before a semi-final clash with Spanish side Celta Vigo next Thursday but it’s now all or nothing for Guardiola who has failed to win a trophy in a season for the first time in his career as a manager.
It was United who came out on top in the last meeting back in October as Juan Mata scored the only goal in a tight EFL Cup fourth-round tie, however City recorded a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford in the reverse league fixture to go top after four games.
Guardiola’s Manchester City saw their final chance of silverware disappear in extra-time as they were defeated 2-1 by Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals on Sunday, courtesy of Alexis Sanchez’ 101st minute winner.
In the Premier League, the Sky Blues have won their last two against Southampton and Hull City following a run of four games without victory that had seen them drop well off the pace set by Chelsea and Tottenham.
The unwelcomed visitors to the Etihad followed up their impressive victory over league-leaders Chelsea with a convincing 2-0 win at Burnley to ensure they kept up the pressure on the sides above them.
Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney scored in Zlatan Ibrahimović’s absence to make it 23 league games unbeaten, a run that stretches back to October 23, though they have not been in the top four places since September 15.
Despite leaving the field with a suspected injury on Sunday, lead goal scorer Sergio Aguero will be fit to lead the line for the home side on Thursday night.
Gabriel Jesus could return to the squad after three months out with a metatarsal fracture, but Spaniard David Silva is a serious doubt after picking up a knock against Arsenal.
Mourinho has announced that record-signing Paul Pogba will not be fit in time for the Red Devils after being brought off during Sunday’s game, whilst Chris Smalling and Phil Jones remain unavailable.
Ibrahimović and Marcos Rojo will miss the remainder of the season after sustaining knee injuries in United’s Europa League win over Anderlecht, as will Juan Mata after undergoing groin surgery.
With so much on the line this is perhaps the biggest match of these respective side’s seasons to date, albeit expectations have perhaps been re-evaluated somewhat since the opening day.
And although important matches can often result in disappointing affairs, it will be fascinating to see if either side can make a significant statement ahead of another summer of big money transfers.
The match takes place at 20.00 BST on Thursday 27 April at the Etihad stadium.