Saturday, the Manchester Derby will be played and the storylines will undoubtedly belong to the two coaches who renew a long rivalry. But on the field will be the first time in years that a game between the two Manchester teams where three points, either way, could swing the title race later in the season.
Both United and City spent masses of money this summer in an arms race that would hopefully bring each team the silverware they expect. Saturday’s meeting will be the first chance for both teams to gauge how well they match up with their cross-town rival. Both sides will be looking for an early advantage in this season’s title race. Meanwhile, United will not want any slip ups on their road back to the Champions League next season.
United will host the match, where last season the two sides played out a lifeless 0-0 draw early in the campaign. United will bring more firepower to the party this time, as new signings Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba are introduced into the derby. It might be United’s wunderkind that is left to steal the show, however, as Marcus Rashford has made a habit of scoring at opportune moments in his young career.
Jose Mourinho will also have to decide what to do with Wayne Rooney. The England captain set up Rashford’s winner against Hull a few weeks back, but against an opposition like City, he’s going to have to work a lot harder for his chances. Henrikh Mkhitaryan might be a card that Mourinho wants to play over Rooney given that he’s regularly come up against Guardiola’s system during his last two seasons at Dortmund. However, a thigh injury to the Armenian doesn’t bode well for his chances to see the pitch Saturday. Regardless, most of the attention will be shown to the forward line as well as Pogba. If United can come out firing and if Ibrahimovic can keep scoring, he has three goals already this year, they could cause Guardiola some trouble.
Standing in the way of United is last season’s third place team and a team that feels they are the dominant team in a city where they’ve played second fiddle for so long. Despite United’s summer strategy of throwing money at everyone, City is the ones playing in the Champions League this year. Guardiola will want to remind United of that on Saturday.
The Manchester derby could be the most expensive game of football ever played.
City hasn’t been frugal this summer, however. Far from it. New signings Ilkay Gündogan, Leroy Sane, Claudio Bravo, Gabriel Jesus and John Stones who money can buy, apparently, are reminders that United aren’t the only ones who can splash a little cash. It will be a heavyweight fight and one that is likely the most expensive match ever played.
Guardiola’s two new Germans, Gündogan, and Sane will both look to make their debuts against United. However, given that Gündogan is just coming off an injury and Sane couldn’t buy a beer in the United States, those two might have to wait for their debuts. Guardiola has gotten good results within the first three matches that he might be willing to stick with what is working. The Spaniard has always opted more for experimentation rather than pragmaticism, but his first Manchester Derby a few weeks into the season may be cause for a more careful approach.
One player that will be getting a debut for City is newly acquired keeper Bravo. Replacing Joe Hart will be a tough sell to many of the City fans, but a big performance against their big rival will go a long way towards winning a few new friends. Bravo will allow Guardiola to play out from the back, a tactic he much prefers to long passes from his number 1. Bravo is good with the ball at his feet, he’s not Manuel Neuer, but he fits Guardiola’s vision much better than City’s former keeper.
Four games into the season are hardly going to be a title decider, but as United and City have gotten out to a flying start they will want to start putting distance between each other as quickly as possible. With two of the strongest and most expensive squads in the Premier League, it should be an exciting fight for dominance. Alternatively, it will be another dull 0-0 and you’ll be back asleep by the half. But we’ll hold out hope for the former, instead.