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Warming up to the Manchester derby: Old rivals meet in a top of the table clash

ANALYST
Feature
708   //    06 Sep 2016, 14:19 IST
Pep Guardiola Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho’s rivalry with Pep Guardiola is set to resume in England

Paul Scholes recently said that the upcoming 10 September 2016 Manchester derby could be the title decider. While that may sound too naive, with the English Premier League season 2016-17 not even a month old, there is no doubt that excitement for the game is sky high.

With all due respect to the English national team, their 95th-minute win over ten-man Slovakia, with five Tottenham players taking the field, was just like a Tottenham match experience. You are happy it’s out of the way, now bring on the real deal!

Is title coming back to Manchester?

There is little doubt that the Manchester twins will remain primary contenders for the league title deep into the season. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho faced catastrophe last year with Chelsea and won’t let that repeat this time with the Red Devils. With his arch rival, Pep Guardiola, on the other side, renewing their rivalry, at England, neither side is expected to let their guard down. Which makes this an extremely key game.

Jose Mourinho joined his team from Manchester after much debate (within United ranks); with renewed hope, expectations and big money signings. His Manchester United haven’t disappointed since. They have clearly raised their level by a notch or two.

Pep Guardiola joined the Sky Blues after a successful tenure with Bayern Munich and his new team have done just as well as the Red half. They too have clearly raised their level by a notch. In an ordinary, low on quality Premier League, where Leicester were handed the title in season 2015-16; no favours of that sort can be expected from the Manchester teams this season.

Pressure more on Manchester United 

With both teams making perfect starts, a loss, in this derby could sow seeds of doubt in either of the confident squads. More so with Mourinho’s United. They are at home and should start with three of their signings (Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly). The Red Devils have a more settled team and won’t need to face the Premier League’s hottest striker Sergio Aguero (suspended for letting fly his mischievous elbow vs West Ham).

Contrastingly, Pep Guardiola has less to lose. He is new to the Premier League, his team is still a work in progress, three of his key signings (Ilkay Gundogan, Claudio Bravo and Leroy Sane) haven’t taken the field yet and half of his defensive unit are adjusting to revamped playing positions.

Also read: Pep Guardiola vs Jose Mourinho: Head to head stats record

Aguero was never sure shot starter

Sergio Aguero
Aguero was suspended after his elbow on Winston Reid
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The prolific striker was injured and didn’t join his native Argentina squad. If not suspended, he would have likely sat out injured. And even if he was fit to play for Argentina, he would have likely flown back to Manchester on 9th September alongside other South Americans such as Nicolas Otamendi, Pablo Zabaleta, Claudio Bravo and Antonio Valencia.

Hence participation for the injury prone striker immediately, after an international outing, was always in doubt. Don’t be surprised if the either of other four South Americans – Valencia (for United) and Bravo, Zabaleta, Otamendi (for City) – don’t start. Bravo and Otamendi will likely start, am not sure on the other two.

5 things to look out for during the Old Trafford clash

1) Mourinho will park the bus and hope his 30+ strikers (Ibrahimovic, Rooney) breach Man City’s yet to gel centre-backs  (Stones, Otamendi).

2) Guardiola will seek flair and possession. He won’t mind being labelled ‘can’t do in Premier League’ after one loss. He seldom responds to the press or experts, so expect him to do his own thing.

3) Zlatan Ibrahimovic just can’t afford to go missing in big games and he will have a point to prove to Guardiola after their time at Barcelona. 

4) Jose Mourinho wouldn’t like to be three points down in the race, especially after a home game.This is Mourinho’s biggest test yet and a loss in this game could see things get ugly from the United camp.

5) Guardiola can surprise big time. He started their Spanish rivalry with a 5-0 thrashing of Mourinho’s Real Madrid when all the pundits were expecting was a 1-1 type game.

Likely scorers/Key assist makers/Game changers

With such a plethora of stars on display, there are a few players that could change the game for their sides. Marouane Fellaini might not an attacking threat but he surely can ruin the rhythm of the opposition.While Marcus Rashford could be the one major player for United that can come off the bench and break the deadlock. 

We cannot rule out Zlatan Ibrahimovic either and of course, Wayne Rooney too will be looking to make a positive impact,

Manchester City will pin their hopes on Raheem Sterling, who has found a new lease on life under Pep Guardiola. Also, the new signing, Nolito seems to be getting better with each match and could be a problem for the United full-backs.

Prediction

The mind says 1-0 to Manchester United but the heart says 1-2 to Manchester City and this time around, the heart overrules the mind. The Blues should get a slender win. 

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