Ahead of the first Manchester Derby of the season, football fans around the country find themselves watering at the mouth ahead of the prospect of the two Manchester clubs locking horns once again.
This is surely the biggest Manchester Derby since 2012, when the two sides were battling it out for the Premier League title. That season, both games were won by the away side so the points were shared, with the title being won by Sergio Agüero’s late winner against Queens’ Park Rangers.
This season will be of similar importance, as the Mancunian clubs are clear favourites for the Premier League. As well as the old same-city rivalry, this year there is also the added rivalry of José Mourinho locking horns with Pep Guardiola. The two managers had a rivalry while managing Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, and this will add yet another intriguing dimension to Saturday’s match.
Mourinho is widely regarded as a winner but one who does not play the most fluent football. Guardiola, on the other hand, has revolutionised modern football with his tiki-taka playing style and it will be very interesting to see who will win the battle in the dugouts.
As far as the individual players are concerned, there is very little to separate the two elevens. I will go through each position and compare them, but I do not think there is very much difference at all between the two teams. I will pick my combined eleven from the Manchester clubs and, in doing so making a team which would surely win the Premier League.
United edge it for me in the goalkeeping department. Claudio Bravo will be making his debut for City tomorrow, but David de Gea is one of the best in the world in my opinion. Antonio Valencia is probably better going forward than Bacary Sagna, but Sagna is more of a natural defender than his United counterpart. Therefore, I would pick the Frenchman if I had to choose one.
My centre back pairing would be Eric Bailly and Vincent Kompany ideally. However, as Kompany is injured and unavailable for the derby, I will pick between John Stones and Chris Smalling. They are likely to be the long-standing England centre back partnership of the next few years, but I would probably pick Stones for my team due to his ability on the ball. Smalling is arguably better at defending, but that aspect of Stones will improve with experience.
Luke Shaw is in my team at left back, and I think he could be one of the best England players of the next few years. If he can remain injury-free, he could make the left back position his own and even become one of the best in the world.
My holding midfielders pick themselves; David Silva has made the transition from one of the top wingers in the world to a deeper role with little to no trouble. He is able to work well with Fernandinho, with the Brazilian carrying out most of the defensive duties while Silva looks to be more creative.
Meanwhile, the other holding midfielder is, unsurprisingly, the most expensive player ever. Paul Pogba has not yet made a particularly big impression since his move to United, but his ability cannot be doubted. Pogba would be able to fulfill the more defensive role of the two midfielders.
Kevin de Bruyne is a player who has not started the season to his usual high standards, but he still has to have a place in the combined team for his work rate and natural ability. I’m sure he will rediscover his form in the coming weeks.
My other winger is Anthony Martial. I was very surprised at how little he played in the European Championships, as he is the kind of player who can always be relied upon to score a few goals if he is given the right service. I think his best position is on the left side of midfield rather than as an out-and-out striker and he will become a world-class player when he reaches his peak.
Up front, it would be criminal to have to choose between Sergio Agüero and Zlatan Ibrahimović, so I will be including both players. They are both arguably in the top five strikers in world football, and they could form yet another rivalry between the Manchester clubs as they race for the golden boot. Although Agüero is banned for the derby after taking a swipe at West Ham’s Winston Reid, the Argentine’s goals over the years are enough to earn him a place in my eleven anyway.
As if it wasn’t difficult enough to choose eleven players from the two Manchester clubs, I also have to choose who to manage them. Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho are the two best managers in the world in my opinion, but if I was pressed to pick one I would have to go for Guardiola
His track record of bringing lasting success as opposed to Mourinho’s reputation of leaving after three seasons gives him the edge for me. Also, Mourinho can be a liability due to the number of fines and touchline bans he will pick up each year, which is something every team can do without.
So, here it is; my team of the upcoming Manchester Derby. Hopefully the game will be an open one, but I think the two great tactical minds could cancel each other out somewhat, and the match will be decided by the odd goal.