City make the short trip across town to Old Trafford for what is being billed as the biggest test of their mettle this season. Bitter rivals United have also been in good form this season but find themselves 8 points behind Pep Guardiola’s all conquering juggernaut.
Leading the United team is a man that Pep and City fans both know very well, Jose Mourinho. He is the yin to Guardiola’s yang and his physical and effective United team are the antithesis to City’s team of twinkle-toed magicians. It has the makings of a classic and will most likely have implication on the title race.
Let’s have a look inside the opposition…
Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Nemanja Matic, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Phil Jones are available for Sunday’s Manchester derby, but the United manager will have to wait until Saturday to see how Marouane Fellaini is.
Eric Bailly and Micheal Carrick remain sidelined with injury whereas Paul Pogba is suspended after his red card against Arsenal.
Pogba will be a huge miss as he is the connecting tissue between the defense and attack of the team and his ability to lead quick transitions and run the show from the centre of the pitch have been key to United’s good form this season.
David De Gea has been in superb form this season and made a record 14 saves against Arsenal, single handedly keeping the hosts to a solitary goal with a string of highlight reel worthy saves. He will take some beating in the United goal.
Ahead of him, Mourinho is most likely to utilize a 5-man defence with full back Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young likely to push forward and pin back City’s wingers Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané and not give them any space to run into. The centre-backs would consist of 3 of Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof with mostly the latter three being selected.
Herrera and Matic are also likely to start, providing a strong screen in front of the defense. Ahead of them Lingard will look to continue his good form in the number 10 position and has the ability to break with pace and feed the ball forward to the strike pair of Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial. Lukaku is a strong aerial presence whose knock downs can create chances for his teammates like the winner against Spurs. Martial will provide strong pace and trickery and will cause problems to Otamendi and Kompany by running at the defense.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Anthony Martial was excellent in his first season at United after moving from Monaco. He was the club’s top goal scorer and a shining light along with Rashford in what was ultimately a poor season at the end of which Van Gaal was sacked. He was lackluster in Mourinho’s first season and even started the current season on the bench. However, he was able to influence games in his substitute appearances and has recently forced his way into the team and he has been involved in 9 goals in 14 appearances in the league this season. With Mourinho mostly setting up his team to capitalize on mistakes from City’s defense and hurt City on the break, Martial will be crucial to his game plan, even more so with fellow Frenchman Pogba out.
A VIEW FROM THE OPPOSITION
How do you feel about United and City’s season so far?
Manchester City have been fantastic there is no denying it – goals galore and you’ve even managed to sort out the defence. It’s a spot in your side that your full backs aside I believed (and many others) was your weakness but as of yet hasn’t come to light and you’ve got a great defensive record. To my annoyance!
It’ll be interesting to see the reaction of the City side when you do suffer a defeat – but they’ve made massive improvements on last season and are looking quality at home and in Europe.
As for United, I think our season besides a few away games in the league, has been pretty good. Even with our injury issues we’ve managed to keep a fantastic home record and get some great results on the road. The main thing for me has been putting the teams at home away that you’d expect us to, fixtures we struggled in last season, and we’ve managed to do that so far.
The derby is a huge test though and our home record will be put under pressure, a victory though and it could really turn on the title race between the two clubs.
What is your opinion on Pogba’s “I hope they suffer injuries” comment before the Arsenal game and subsequent red card?
I think it was blown out of proportion to be honest but you’d expect any comment by a Man United player on a City player to bring headlines!
If you listen to what he actually says it makes sense – we’ve had injuries and it’d be nice to think our rivals would suffer at some point in the season. Some of the responses to his comments were crazy, almost as if he’d said “I can’t wait until Aguero breaks his legs”.
How do you think Mourinho will approach the game and who is your danger man in that set up?
I think Jose will set us up similar to the way we played against Arsenal. 3-4-1-2 with Herrera coming in for Pogba.
He’ll invite City onto the defence and try and hit you on the counter whilst allowing Lingard, Martial and Lukaku to work your back line and hopefully bring some errors out of your defenders. Which makes sense given the way it succeeded at Arsenal and the way City have played.
Pogba was key to the system though and allowed us to transition from defense to attack with pace, something our other midfielders don’t offer us so he could completely surprise us and go with a different system. It is Jose after all!
Which City player are you most wary of?
Oh boy – if I say one I’ll be missing out an equally talented player. Aguero is someone I’ve always admired and De Bruyne has been fantastic this season and is an obvious danger man (I wouldn’t be surprised if Herrera is asked to do a job on him). And David Silva makes you tick. So one of those.
Head: 1-1. Heart: 2-1. I’m hoping my heart is the winner!