Manchester City were at the top of the Premier League table, until Arsenal managed to fend off Everton to win 2-1. City now sit in 2nd, just 1 point behind the Gunners and 2 point ahead of 4th place Manchester United. But both Manchester clubs have a game in hand on the leaders.
The Blues currently have 7 wins and 2 losses and a +15 goal difference, after scoring 24 and conceding 8. The Reds have also only conceded 8 goals, but have only scored 15.
In City’s last 5 games they have: lost to Tottenham 4-1 at White Hart Lane; they then beat Norwich 2-1, at Carrow Road; their last 3 games have all been at home, with 3 wins against Newcastle United, Bournemouth and Sevilla in the Champions League.
Their trip to Old Trafford will be their first away match in 3 games, not that they have to travel very far.
The Etihad side have a very high profile injury list. Sergio Agüero, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Gaël Clichy and new signing Fabian Delph will all sit out the big derby game. But they have plenty of depth in their squad to cover for their losses.
One of their key danger men is Raheem Sterling, who has proven to be an exceptional signing from Liverpool. The Merseyside fans must be kicking themselves for so quickly turning their backs on the young winger when contract negotiations were starting to flounder.
In his 8 Premier League games as a Sky Blue, he has scored 4 and set one up. But this is only a glimpse at what he brings to the field. His incredible pace and dribbling skill torments the defence relentlessly through the 90 minutes of play.
Another new signing is a major threat for City, which shows how well they’ve done in the summer transfer window. Kevin de Bruyne has 3 goals and 3 assists in his first 5 Premier League games. 2 came in which would transpire into a City loss but the other was part of the 6-1 win against Newcastle.
He is yet to play against any of the other top teams (Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United) but has got off to a great start with his new team.
The 24 year old Belgian midfielder will be flying high after his late game winning goal against Sevilla in mid week.
At the back, Vincent Kompany’s calf injury has allowed Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolás Otamendi to come in and secure their places in the starting line up.
Ex-Valencia centre back Otamendi was reported to be a target of Manchester United this summer but once the interest died down City swooped in and claimed the defender.
His speed, vision and brute strength have proven to be game changer for City this season, not that they wouldn’t be able to outscore the opposition without his defensive triumphs.
Kompany has been on the City bench in the last couple of games, but Manuel Pellegrini is adamant that he will not rush last year’s captain back to action, despite him playing an hour for Belgium during the international break.
City’s two games without Agüero and Silva have seen the Blues line up with the same personnel. Against Sevilla and Bournemouth Manchester City started:
Bacary Sagna, Eliaquim Mangala, Nicolás Otamendi, Pablo Zabaleta
Fernandinho, Yaya Touré
Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, Jesús Navas
The group have won both games by a combined score of 7-2, 5 of which came against Bournemouth in the Premier League.
Over the last 5 seasons, the Manchester derby has taken place 13 times. Starting on 10th November 2010, to the latest matchup in April last season, here is the chain of results:
Draw, United, City, United, City (6-1 @ Old Trafford), United, City, United, City, City, City, City, United (4-2 @ Old Trafford, scorers: Agüero, Young, Fellaini, Mata, Smalling, Agüero).
Until the last 5 match ups United and City were taking it in turns to take the 3 points. In recent times however, the Blues have dominated winning 4 of the last 5 games in the Manchester derby.
Manchester United’s challenge will be to attempt to subdue the pacey and skilful offence. City have so many offensive weapons that United’s midfielders will have to pull their weight at the back, and not repeat the Arsenal incident.
On paper, City have the perfect attack; pacey wingers, a strong striker with an eye for goal, and visionary midfielders who can pick a pass from 40 yards away.
But the Blues have been criticised of being a bit too attacking, and leaving their midfield and defence exposed on multiple occasions. If United defend well, and cut out City’s key playmakers, then the Red Devils should be able to break away and create chances of their own.
Whoever plays in attacking midfield, be it Ander Herrera or Wayne Rooney, they will be in for a dog fight as they content for possession with Fernandinho. The flair and pace of Herrera would be preferable as he’s more likely to draw fouls from the brutal Brazilian.
The game will prove to be a huge challenge for teenage wunderkind Anthony Martial. Both Mangala and Otamendi posses pace and can put in decent last ditch tackles to win the ball when the player has seemingly passed them.
Luckily, both can be a bit rash, meaning that Martial’s gung-ho play and tricky feet will cause them all kinds of problems. It’s quite unlikely that he’ll outmuscle either City defenseman like he did the CSKA defenders, or Per Mertesacker.
Like with the Arsenal game, this match up will be decided on the each side’s ability to absorb and repel opposition attacks. Manchester City will throw everything at the United defence.
The midfielders will need to pull back to outnumber City when they begin to launch attacks on De Gea’s goal.
Going forward, City often leave themselves open towards their end of the field and pacey counter attacks from Herrera, Rooney, Mata and Martial could reap big rewards, if they take their chances.
Joe Hart is one of the best keepers in the league, United’s strike force will need to be clinical to get the ball into his net. In 8 Premier League games this season, he has conceded 4 goals and kept 5 clean sheets.
Memphis Depay’s erratic long range shots will not be welcomed by the Old Trafford faithful against a keeper of Hart’s calibre, as he will just lap them up with ease.
The game could go either way, but no matter how much depth Manchester City have, the magnitude of the loss of Silva and Agüero will become apparent in big match ups like this.
History reads that this match is very unlikely to end in a stalemate and the game could quite easily be won by either side. But I think that both teams will turn up and display very few major errors with one of them coming out on top by a very fine margin.
I think that Manchester United will win 2-1, but the game itself may in prove that a draw would be a fairer outcome.
The game kicks off at 14:05 at Old Trafford and will be broadcasted on Sky Sports 1 HD.