Paul Scholes has said that the 10th September 2016 Manchester derby could be the title decider. While that may sound too naive, what 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, well, was just like a Tottenham game experience. You are happy it’s out of the way, now bring in the real deal!
Is title coming back to Manchester
There is little doubt that the Manchester twins will remain primary contenders to the league title, deep into the season, catastrophe aside. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho faced catastrophe last year and won’t let that repeat.
With his arch rival, Pep Guardiola, on other side, renewing their rivalry at England, either side are unexpected to let their guard down. Which makes this a key game.
Jose Mourinho joined the reds after much debate and with renewed hope, expectations and big money signings. He or his Manchester United haven’t disappointed since. They have clearly raised their level by a notch or two. Pep Guardiola joined the blues after three year long plotting and with hope, style and dream to build a classic team. He or his Manchester City haven’t disappointed since. They have clearly raised their level by a notch. In an ordinary, low on quality, premier league, where Leicester were literally handed the title in 2015-16; no favors of that sort can be expected from the Manchester twins this season.
Pressure more on Manchester United on can’t lose
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, will start with three of their signings (Ibra, Pogba, Bailly), have a more settled team and won’t need to face Premier league’s premier 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 work in progress, three of his key signings (Gundogan, Bravo, Sane) haven’t tasted premier league action yet, half of his defensive unit are adjusting to revamped playing positions and Aguero was never a sure shot starter.
Aguero was never sure shot starter
The prolific striker was injured and didn’t join his native Argentina squads. 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 Otamendi, Zabaleta, Bravo and Valencia. Hence participation for the injury prone striker immediately, after an international outing, is 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 start, am not sure on the other two.
Rivalry par excellence
Guardiola and Mourinho have a left a long lasting rivalry and legacy in Spain. As managers of Spain’s elite clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid, their rivalry at Spain spanned 11 games including La Liga, Spanish Cup and Champions league matches, over two seasons. Guardiola lead that race with a win-draw-loss record of 5-4-2 with a Barcelona team between 2010 and 2012 that vies for the best club team ever. Those eleven games had wide range of scorelines 1-0, 1-1, 2-0, 2-1, 2-2, 3-1, 3-2, 5-0 and with those quality of teams (at Spain) it frankly gives no indicator of what to expect at Old Trafford. Maybe one can assume a few things safely.
Five Factors that will decide Old Trafford clash
- Mourinho will park the bus and hope his 30+ strikers (Ibrahimovic, Rooney) breach ManCity’s yet to gel center backs (Stones, Otamendi).
- 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 press or experts, so will do his own thing.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic just can’t afford to go missing in big games, yet again; can’t afford losing to Pep Guardiola; after all his bitter comments over the years.
- Jose Mourinho wouldn’t like to be three points down the race, after a home game.This is Mourinho’s biggest test yet and lose this game and all ugly whispering will start.
- Guardiola can surprise big time. He started their Spanish rivalry with a 5-0 thrashing of Mourinho’s Real Madrid (Nov 2010), when all the pundits were expecting was a 1-1 type game.
Manchester United : De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Blind, Shaw, Fellaini, Pogba; Mata, Rooney, Martial; Ibrahimovic.
Manchester City: Bravo; Clichy, Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov; Fernandinho; Jesus Navas, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling; Nolito.
Likely scorers/Key assist makers/Game changers:
Fellaini, Rashford, Rooney; Silva, Nolito, Sterling.
Mind says 1-0 to Manchester United
Heart says 1-2 to Manchester City.
I will go with heart!