Manchester United’s internationally anticipated clash with local rivals Manchester City has hit some bumps during this international break, with proceedings affecting players’ eligibility and/or fitness to participate in Jose Mourinho’s first clash with Pep Guardiola. Now, with just seven days before the derby kicks off and the action begins, here are the five omissions that could potentially end up being notable.
5. Marouane Fellaini, Midfielder, Manchester United
Somehow, Marouane Fellaini has become a key player in midfield for United again, against all odds, defying all expectations and quietly functioning very effectively in midfield. He’d be closer to the top if not for two reassuring variables for United fans- the first is that he could return before the derby, and the second is that United finally has the squad depth to cover midfield injuries. Morgan Schneiderlin’s two performances in the Manchester Derbies, particularly the one at Old Trafford, were spectacular.
4. Vincent Kompany, Defender, Manchester City
According to Transfermarkt, Vincent Kompany returns from his latest injury spell this weekend, but, considering the spell was a long one that saw him miss Euro 2016, it would be incredible for Kompany to return to the full first team in just a week. City will receive comfort from the fact that Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones are in decent form, but Pep Guardiola’s side are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League this season.
3. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Attacking Midfielder, Manchester United
Henrikh Mkhitaryan ticked all the boxes for United against Hull City, completely changing the game before Marcus Rashford catapulted United into overdrive. Mkhitaryan was sharp, seemed to win a foul every time he got on the ball, and nearly scored before Rashford fired home from point-blank range. Unfortunately, he sustained an injury representing Armenia, and could miss the Derby outright. He walked off the pitch after picking up his injury, which provides a reason to be optimistic, but he would be a massive miss for United.
2. Antonio Valencia, Fullback, Manchester United
Antonio Valencia, much like Fellaini, has made good at United after being maligned for around four years, suffering a couple of rough injuries and struggling to find a tactical role that suits him well. However, at right-back this season, he has looked solid defensively and excellent moving forward. Unfortunately, the South American international break lasts longer, ensuring Valencia won’t arrive back in Manchester until the day before the derby. Jose Mourinho has already stated he might miss out on the action, and while United has the likes of Matteo Darmian and Timothy Fosu-Mensah to call upon, neither has seen much pitch time in pre-season or the opening four fixtures. Valencia was nominated for the Premier League player of the month in August.
1. Sergio Aguero, Striker, Manchester City
The FA confirmed that Sergio Aguero will miss the Manchester Derby after he received a suspension and a fine for violent conduct. However, having watched it live, I thought he deserved his suspension the way Marouane Fellaini does when he demonstrates similar actions. That makes Aguero the easiest player to place at the top of this list. While Kelechi Iheanacho represents City’s sole promising youth prospect in the first team, he certainly does not pose the same goal threat as Aguero, whose omission will almost definitely have the most influential impact on the result of the Manchester Derby. That being said, both Manchester clubs are seemingly the best they have been for a long while, and, regardless of who is on the pitch, the managerial and footballing talent will be a sight to behold.