It’s finally here! It’s the Manchester Derby and it’s the biggest one ever. I’ve written this exact introduction so many times throughout the last week, but by now, I know everyone knows exactly what’s going on- it’s in the title! Nonetheless, everyone is giving their take and making bold calls of their own for other bold callers to dispute. We’ve decided to do none other than the same, with our writers giving their takes on proceedings. Here, Daniel Hazell, Elton Wolf, Matt Henderson join me, Aaron Moniz, in predicting the biggest match of the season.
Daniel Hazell: A last-gasp winner at Hull City before the international break meant Jose Mourinho has picked up maximum points in his first three Barclay’s Premier League fixtures in charge of the club, resulting in the buzz and confidence surrounding Old Trafford to be sky-high going into the first Manchester derby of the season. As you would expect with a derby, United vs Manchester City is usually hugely anticipated whatever the circumstance or stage, although this time marks the first Mourinho vs Pep Guardiola clash in the Premier League, meaning the excitement and stakes are on an even higher level. I get the feeling we will see three changes to the previous starting eleven – with one of them being forced due to the in-form Antonio Valencia not arriving back off international duty until a day before the fixture.
Starting XI: De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Pogba; Lingard, Rooney, Martial; Ibrahimovic.
Something tells me Mourinho will opt with the experience of Matteo Darmian at the expense of Timothy Fosu-Mensah. If fit, Jesse Lingard’s pace, work-rate and energy will be valuable to the side in a game of this magnitude – that is of course, if Henrikh Mkhitaryan is injured, as is being reported. Despite a strong start to the season, I would replace Marouane Fellaini with Morgan Schneiderlin purely because I trust the Frenchman’s temperament more so. Marcus Rashford will be ready and wait to make an impact off the bench.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City
Elton Wolf: After months and months of waiting, the Manchester derby is finally around the corner. Manchester United vs Manchester City. Jose Mourinho will look to continue his winning start at Manchester United, and will definitely be looking to do so at Old Trafford against Pep Guardiola. Saturday’s matchup has everything needed to make this particular derby one to remember, below is my prediction of the players leading United out of the tunnel.
Starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Pogba, Fellaini; Rashford, Rooney, Martial; Ibrahimovic.
Antonio Valencia has been exceptional this season, and even though there are doubts about his fitness for the derby, his recent training video shows that he is looking forward to the match. Still, no place for Smalling in my prediction, Bailly and Blind have looked great together so far. In the midfield, Fellaini is expected to have returned to full fitness following a back injury, and will be yet again partnered by Paul Pogba. Due to Henrikh Mkhitaran’s injury concerns, I believe that Marcus Rashford should be given an opportunity to start, and I believe that against City his attributes outweigh that of fellow teammate Juan Mata. I hope to see an increase in the performances of both Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial, who need to start getting on the scoresheet or else I believe that Mourinho will give other’s the opportunity to start. No questions who plays up top, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s hot start at Manchester United has been exceptional to watch, let’s hope we see more of the same this weekend.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City
Matt Henderson: Derby day. I still love it, I think this and the Liverpool games are my favourite days of the year and from the night before through to kick off the butterflies are roaring around my stomach. This game is setting them off more than ever because it feels like there is a lot at stake even at this early stage of the season, which is absolutely ridiculous when you consider there are only three games gone. It’s a massive match that runs much deeper than action on the pitch, the two managers have a long-running and well-known feud on the boil that promises to make things extra tasty. I can’t honestly call it with my usual degree of confidence, though the absence of Sergio Aguero tips the favour to United and Jose Mourinho for myself. United have many players capable of swinging the game and the fact there is a lot of reports into Marcus Rashford and whether he should start or not is a sign of how far they’ve come in 12 months. United will start like so;
Starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Blind, Bailly, Shaw; Herrera, Pogba; Mata, Rooney, Martial; Ibrahimovic
Fellaini being a doubt means Herrera has to be played, especially against City where pace in behind them will be vital. Otherwise, nothing should change with the doubts over Henrikh Mkhitaryan also. The game will be won in the midfield and whichever side can get the lion’s share of the territory, and so long as Pogba and the three behind the striker show up then I have no doubts Ibrahimovic will be handsomely assisted.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Manchester City
Aaron Moniz: The Manchester Derby at Old Trafford is officially the biggest match of the Premier League season- and I needn’t expand on that. It’s Jose Mourinho vs Pep Guardiola too, or “The Special One” vs “The Bald One” if you’re a United fan, or “The Bus” vs “The Midfield Shape” if you’re the media. It’s tiring watching the media berating a man as gifted as Mourinho all the time, and combined with the undue praise awarded to Guardiola it can be unbearable, so it would be wonderful to see a win.
In the lineup, expect generally the same from the first three Premier League matches with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford perhaps entering on the wings- I favourite the Armenian to start, or Jesse Lingard if he is injured (would prefer both without Wayne Rooney), but Anthony Martial scored during the break and doesn’t deserve to be dropped, keeping Rashford on the bench- a great option if United goes down a goal. If Valencia is injured, Matteo Darmian will most likely start, though I would prefer to see Timothy Fosu-Mensah (see slashes to indicate injury replacements).
Starting XI: De Gea; Valencia/Darmian, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Fellaini, Pogba; Mkhitaryan/Lingard, Rooney, Martial; Ibrahimovic
City won’t win- Mourinho won’t let it happen, especially at Old Trafford, with his home records. However, Mourinho hasn’t been able to win against Guardiola in the past. United is more likely to win than lose, but I’m feeling less optimistic about it. As much as I’d like to see United win, destroying the media and ultimately prevailing, I think Guardiola’s men will have enough in defence to earn a draw.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City