Finally, it’s here! 10th September 2016 was the date, a lot of football fans and all the Manchester United fans, marked on their calendar. It is the Manchester Derby day and this one has an unparalleled excitement surrounding it. The derby was always looked forward to but with the heavyweights that have been added to both the teams over the summer means, this time, it is going to be even more special. But what takes it to even higher levels is the managers at the helm of both the clubs. The history between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola goes back to Spain when the former was leading the Real Madrid side while the latter was with Barcelona. Things went south between the two and suddenly Mourinho versus Guardiola was the new managerial battle to watch out for.
Now with these two managing in the same city, there is a lot to fight over and both the managers with the strong start that they have had, will like to continue with the momentum and take as much as they can from this game. The anticipation for the game has gone a notch higher also due to the wait that the fans had to put up with due to the international break, one which brought a couple of injuries and concerns to a few United player. Henrikh Mkhitaryan had to be withdrawn from his international engagement due to the injury while Luke Shaw was sent home as a precautionary measure. However, Mourinho in his presser confirmed that he has the whole squad at his disposal. Another one who was injured but not the casualty of the International Break was Marouane Fellaini. But the recent reports and his involvement in the international squad suggest that he is fit and in contention to start for the game this Saturday. In all honesty, this might not be the game which will decide the title this season but it will surely help one team continue and build on their momentum. Another thing that makes it more important, other than the fact that it is a city derby, is the fans and their confidence. A good win would do wonders to the fan’s enthusiasm, which already is at the top, and give the team that extra push while on the field. So, with so much riding on this game, Mourinho will have to get his starting XI right on the button. But predicting it is going to be tricky considering the different amount of time that every player has had with the squad since coming back from the international break.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
The formation will most probably remain the same, on the sheet at least, and might evolve in to different ones as per the state of the game and opposition. However, the key personnel should remain more or less the same as the previous games.
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
There is no doubt in who will start in the goal at all. De Gea has not been as involved in the games as he has been during the past few seasons but he can expect that to change in the coming game, looking at City’s attacking talent. Let’s hope “The Flying Spaniard” does what he usually do and keeps United out of trouble.
Back Four: Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, and Luke Shaw
Mourinho is likely to keep his back four unchanged. The fullbacks along with the central defenders have been extremely good in the first three games but this will be their first big test and the manager would be comfortable playing guys who have played some games together and started developing co-ordination, unless Shaw is not fit to start as might be the case if his return from England training camp was not just precautionary measures.
Central Midfielders: Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba
Who would have thought that fans would want Fellaini as their first choice central midfielder in a Manchester Derby? The fact is, the Belgian has been outstanding in the first three games of the season and almost everyone will have him in their predicted starting XI, similar to his midfield partner, Pogba. The French midfielder will have the responsibility of running the game in the middle and with how Guardiola likes to have inverted full-backs, he will have to work really hard to find open spaces and run with the ball, something that he really likes to do. But United’s latest recruit is a world class talent and generally big players revel in such big occasions and the United fans will be counting on that.
Wingers: Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial
The Derby might have come a little too quickly for the Armenian but he still might feature in the game off the bench. But one feels that his fitness situation might be tricky to start him in the game. Juan Mata has done well in the first games but he has been involved in the Internationals and keeping in mind that and his fitness level, it might be a good chance to throw Rashford in. The youngster has shown what he brings to the game and that is his ability to run behind the defense and with extreme speed. With Guardiola playing with inverted wingers, the full-back is an area which can be exploited and with someone with Rashford’s pace on the side will make the threat even more dangerous. Martial has not quite hit the stride but he might be doing better with his confidence with his first international goal for France and that might help him get back to his last season performances.
Number 10: Wayne Rooney
However much you debate on it, Rooney will be the number 10 in the team, especially in a game like a derby. Games like this need club’s senior players in the playing XI. It would be interesting to see if he does well but fans won’t complain if he doesn’t and ends up assisting the winner in the last-minute, like the last time around.
Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
United are a much bigger side as compared to City and what better way to exploit this than by using a giant of a striker to hover over the defenders. Zlatan has had an excellent start to the season and with missing to get on the scoresheet last game, will want to get back in to his scoring habit.
This will be the first real challenge for Mourinho’s United and with his strategic intellect and talent at his disposal, fans all around the world would be expecting him to surpass it. This will by far be the biggest game in the Premier League calendar, let’s just hope that it lives up to the expectations and anticipation.