Manchester Mayhem: 5 things to look forward to in the Manchester Derby
Call it derby delights, bragging rights or keys to the city of Manchester itself. The first city of English football looks forward to another instalment of the smouldering cauldron of passion and pride called as Manchester Derby.
These tinderbox tussles or Masala matches are riotous in the stands, rambunctious on the grass and absolutely provocative on the telly. So for the weak of heart, the addict of temperamental tendencies and the passive of actions, there is a caveat of complete emotional and psychological breakdown. Watch at the risk of your complete conversion!
Date: Sunday, 11 November 2018
Time: 22:00hrs IST
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Last fixture: Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
With that settled, here is a breakdown of five salient lenses to deconstruct and speculate on the fixture:
City took a deserved 2-0 lead into half-time but United came strong in the second half with a Pogba double and rare goal from Chris Smalling.
To be fair, in these matches, form, mathematics and even logic goes for a toss, out of the stadium gates. As soon as the players step on the pitch, it is going to be helter-skelter, fierce tackles and lung-bursting slug fest. The statistics are for the fantasy football pundits. For the match goers, players, and the managers, it will be the allure of glorious victory that will govern their thoughts and actions.
In the blue corner, you have the Spanish maestro, a paragon of reinvention and the inventor of ‘tiki-taka’ while in the red corner you have the master manipulator the greatest defensive tactician of the 21st Century.
Former colleagues at Barcelona (1996-2000), the two of the greatest ever football managers could not be more different in their approach, demeanour and what Louis Van Gaal (worked with both at Barcelona) calls “footballing philosophy”.
From Barcelona-Madrid, Barcelona-Inter, Bayern-Chelsea the two take their pursuit of superiority and one-upmanship to the North West of England. The recent City documentary was dubbed ‘classless’ by the Portuguese and will add more fuel to the high-octane derby duel.
In the Blue corner you have the irrepressible and finally unrestrained Raheem Sterling and in the Red corner, you have the reemergence of the mercurial genius that is Anthony Martial.
Sterling has six goals and five assists in nine League matches taking his overall tally to 51 goals being scored from 144 (since 2015 move all competitions). He is the City’s talisman at the moment, ably aided by the likes of Aguero and Bernardo Silva. Fending off interest from the likes of Real Madrid the 23-year-old, but City extended his contract until 2023 this week.
Anthony Martial has come into his own in October with four goals in as many games. The French winger’s form and potency on the counter-attack, along with Pogba’s midfield charge – will be the United’s ultimate weapon on Sunday.
The Blue corner seems impenetrable with its indestructible defensive duo of Laporte and Jones with the formidable screen of Fernandinho. However, if one is stretched to find a lever to discombobulate the City design it will be a seemingly lightweight midfield three of two Silvas. Bernardo and David Silva are no physical match for the likes of Fellaini and Pogba. Furthermore, there is the Kyle Walker stratagem. Walker plays as the third centre-back when City have possession and, fills in as defensive partner of Fernandinho if they succumb to turnovers. There could be possible foibles for Martial, Lingard and Pogba to exploit at one of these points of transition. This may sound like clutching on straws because it most likely is,
In the Red corner, you have the stuttering partnership of Smalling and Lindelof with the porous midfield blanket provided by leggy Matic, ill-disciplined Pogba and temerarious Fred. Luke Shaw is prone to follow the ball rather than the man while Ashley Young has a mare at Bournemouth. His task is exacerbated by the defensive ineptness of Juan Mata on the right flank.
Bernardo Silva’s elusive movement and manipulation of spaces, David Silva’s dexterous circulation of the ball, Benjamin Mendy’s lethal crossing and the pace of Sterling, Sane and Aguero/Jesus will be a torturous task for the United midfielders, defensive halves and full-backs. The return to fitness and form of Ander Herrera might prove crucial if United has to provide a rock-solid footing for advancing its counterattacking game by shutting off the back door to its goal.
The Lords of ruthless perfection vs the Kings of unlikely comebacks
The Citizens have been like an unstoppable juggernaut with 12 goals in their last two fixtures and 50+ already this season. With a perfect home record this season the team has shown incredible defensive thrift apart from lavish attacking zeal. With only four goals conceded in their first eleven League fixtures, they are always brimming with the confidence to step on the accelerator and drive home their attacking engine full throttle. The two-headed monster will be tough to slain for the visiting Red Devils.
The Red team has amassed quite a string of Fergiesque comebacks over the last month and a half with Roy of the Rover stuff against New Castle, Brawl at Stamford Bridge, Smash and Grab at Bournemouth and the Italian Job in Turin against the ‘Old Lady’ Juventus. The streak might not last and so the Red Devils will need to shift gears in the first half and mottle out of their ‘Second Half United’ skin. Another poor start against a merciless City might spell an insurmountable task with a catastrophic end by the final whistle.
The fixture invites primed opinions and incites pungent reactions so much so that formalistic computer algorithms have their play at predictions too like the one at Football Web Page which predicts a 6-0 hammering of United. However, no software can gauge the red fury, blue poise or derby dynamics accurately. Not until it gets the taste of one bone-crushing tackle on the pitch!
The clocks are set, the reward is in the cross-hairs and the curtain rises at 2200 hrs IST. All the bets and all the rest will be discarded to the sidelines when the teams of Manchester enter the arena at the Etihad for the Super Sunday Showdown!