City on fire ahead of Manchester Derby: Richard Buxton
The Citizens' form has picked up at the worst possible time for Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer already knows the script. He has recited it several times over.
Another defining week in the beleaguered Manchester United manager's tenure boils down to a crucial encounter to stave off more inevitable and deserved scrutiny.
The Red Devils' showdown at Old Trafford with Manchester City on Sunday morning (Singapore time) could push Solskjaer close to the brink, following their local rivals' cruising 3-0 win over Marseille in their Champions League group finale yesterday morning.
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Victories for Pep Guardiola's side in Europe's elite club competition have bordered on both the perfunctory and dead-eyed in recent years.
But, after picking up 16 points from a possible 18 in this group campaign - which is a club record - along with five clean sheets, City's form should instil a genuine fear in his opposite number.
Guardiola's men are not short on confidence, having racked up four wins from their last five games in all competitions since a 2-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur - a spell in which they have not conceded.
United have also won four consecutive English Premier League games, but their recent tendency to concede first could prove detrimental.
To add to the Red Devils' worries, their EPL home form has been dreadful this season, having managed only one win in five league outings at Old Trafford - a 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion last month.
They have also drawn with Chelsea (0-0) and lost to Crystal Palace (3-1), Arsenal (1-0) and Tottenham Hotspur (6-1). City are more than capable of inflicting more pain.
Sir Alex Ferguson famously derided United's nearest and dearest as a mild irritant; "a noisy neighbour" that could be ignored by simply turning up the volume on your television.
Solskjaer, however, does not have the option of drowning out City's sound.
Their unheralded ruthlessness is reminiscent of Ferguson's all-conquering teams of the past, which helped the "baby-faced assassin" etch his name into Old Trafford folklore.
City's near-flawless passage into the round of 16, even at half-strength, underlines the power shift in Manchester as United face a stint in the Europa League's knockout stages for a second consecutive season, despite operating at virtually full tilt.
City's laser-like focus never wavered against Marseille and further intensified when Sergio Aguero made a long-awaited introduction midway through the second half.
The Argentinian's goal barely 10 minutes on his return stole the headlines. But his attacking partner Ferran Torres should concern Solskjaer just as much, especially as City's ageing talisman is confirmed to begin the clash at the Theatre of Dreams on the bench.
The Spaniard, who joined City in the summer, has scored in four Champions League outings for the Citizens, and appears a more competent alternative to the misfiring Gabriel Jesus.
Scars from their failed EPL title defence are slowly healing. The prospect of inflicting a far greater pain on Solskjaer than he did with March's 2-0 reversal will only heighten City's motivation as they prepare to make the short trip to Old Trafford.
Fears of fuelling a perception that the Old Trafford hierarchy hires and fires managers at will has allowed the Norwegian to cling to power in the same way he does with lazy nostalgia.
Allowing Solskjaer to fall on his sword before Christmas leaves the club in a no-win situation, with City's visit followed by trips to Sheffield United and a League Cup quarter-final with Everton either side of welcoming another sworn enemy in Leeds United.
Not that optics seem to matter to the club's hierarchy, having sacked Louis van Gaal after winning the FA Cup, David Moyes on the back of a defeat by the Toffees, his former employers, and Jose Mourinho following a 3-1 humiliation by Liverpool.
Guardiola's charges were guilty of taking their eye off the ball in three of last season's four meetings. With Ole in the crosshairs again, they will not hesitate in taking the shot.