The first Manchester derby of the season will be played at Old Trafford this weekend, with both sides heading into the fixture with a 100% record. It will be the first time that Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have faced off in the Premier League, which adds an extra layer of intrigue, making it the most hotly anticipated Manchester derby for a long time. The two had several spats while managing in Spain and the English media will be hoping that there are more fireworks in Manchester.
The two have approached their new jobs in different ways. Mourinho has opted to spend big and bring in world class players to put Manchester United back in the title picture. On the other hand, Guardiola has chosen evolution rather than revolution and has brought in young players with huge potential. The early indications are that both approaches are working and the two Manchester sides have picked up maximum points in the Premier League to date. However, only one can finish top of the league in May and this fixture is a good opportunity to gain the upper hand early. It will be fascinating to see how each manager approaches the match this weekend.
Manchester United have started the season in impressive form, winning the first three league matches under Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese manager has already had an effect, as shown by the side’s defensive record. They have conceded just one goal, which is the best defensive record in the league this season. There have only been three matches, but United’s start should concern their rivals, including Manchester City. The additions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba have brought the winning mentality back to Old Trafford and they will be relishing the opportunity to record an early derby victory. The former has a history with Guardiola and he will be fully motivated to score this weekend.
Their rivals, City, have had an impressive start, but haven’t managed to deliver a top draw performance yet. Although there are flashes of brilliance, they have struggled to perform at that level for an entire 90 minutes. They have yet to keep a clean sheet and have looked vulnerable at times in defence. Guardiola has already had an effect and the side will improve as they become accustomed to his style of play.
During the last seven Manchester derbies, City have fared better, winning four times. However, last season they struggled in the fixture and failed to score once against their rivals. In the match at Old Trafford, the two teams ended level with the scoreline at 0-0. Meanwhile at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester United took the bragging rights thanks to a Marcus Rashford goal.
- Wayne Rooney is the top scorer in the history of the Manchester derby with 11 goals.
- In the 11 Clasicos that were played when Mourinho and Guardiola were managing the top two clubs in Spain, there were an incredible 81 cards dished out.
- Guardiola has won seven of the 16 meetings with Mourinho, with the Portuguese manager winning just three.
The Frenchman is now the most expensive player in the world and the pressure is on him to perform consistently, especially in the big matches. Manchester City are weak in central areas without Ilkay Gundogan. The German could feature this weekend, but he is unlikely to start. They are excellent in possession, but are vulnerable to quick counter attacks and Pogba is crucial to Manchester United’s transition phase. He is one of the best carriers of the ball in the world and has already shown this in a Manchester United shirt. His teammates will look for him at every opportunity as he is very comfortable on the ball and never looks like losing possession. He can escape from the tightest of areas with the ball and he will need to, as City will press him at every opportunity. If Pogba plays well and dominates the midfield, the home side will take the three points.
He is still adjusting to the role that he has been asked to play under Pep Guardiola. Both he and David Silva are playing deeper but they have been given the freedom to roam in front of the opposition back four. Sergio Aguero is missing this weekend, which places more emphasis on De Bruyne to perform. During the first three matches, he has contributed two assists. However, he hasn’t been able to influence games as we know he can do. Manchester United will have Marouane Fellaini playing in the holding midfield role and City need to target him. They need to get De Bruyne on the ball as much as possible in the final third, as he will create chances and be a general nuisance, which could lead to several fouls being committed on him. The Belgian needs to step up and take the mantle left by Aguero.
Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are both doubts with knocks. Juan Mata is expected to continue in the starting eleven, while Marcus Rashford is pushing for his first competitive start of the season.
Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane and Claudio Bravo could all make their debuts this weekend, but it is only the goalkeeper that is likely to start. Vincent Kompany is available for selection, while Nicolas Otamendi won’t start after returning late from international duty. Sergio Aguero will be suspended, which leaves Guardiola with a problem in attack.
This is a difficult match to call as neither side have really been tested so far this season. Manchester United have home advantage and have a more settled side. City have players missing and others who are short of match fitness. The home side look to be the more likely winners, but derby day can be unpredictable. It will be a great way to mark the return of the Premier League after the international break and I’m tipping a narrow Manchester United win. The absence of Aguero will hit City hard.