Mourinho and Guardiola set to renew old rivalry in new settings…
The biggest Manchester derby in recent history looms on the horizon with bragging rights, the summit of the league and a perfect record at stake.
The last time these two sides met it resulted in a hotly contested 0-0 draw, but both clubs have since gone under the knife and now present a challenge not only in England, but in Europe as well.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia have all been given the green light to play in the derby clash. Marouane Fellaini overcame a back injury in playing for Belgium on Tuesday, while Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero are available despite convoluted journeys back from spending the international break with Argentina.
Pep Guardiola would have known from the start of the week that he would have to plan his team to take on Manchester United without their talisman Sergio Aguero. But, a successful transfer window and the purple patch enjoyed by Raheem Sterling means the trident of the Englishman, the Spaniard Nolito and young Nigerian forward Kelechi Iheanacho will serve Guardiola well, hopefully for him distributing the Argentine’s goals and the workload between the three.
Vincent Kompany will be a big miss though as the former Barcelona boss confirmed rumours of the Belgian joining in with the first-team, but he’s still not deemed fit enough to take any part in this game. However, Former Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is expected to make his City debut in Saturday’s derby.
German internationals Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan are also fit and could make it a trio of new faces, while full-back Bacary Sagna has recovered from a hamstring problem.
Both managers have tried to shun away the attention from themselves and move it onto their players by playing down their personal feud. Both were flattering in their praise for the opposition, with Mourinho admitting it will be “difficult” to predict City without the suspended Sergio Aguero.
“When Aguero is available we know that Aguero plays,” Mourinho said. “We know their formation and what their dynamic is.
Guardiola meanwhile was quizzed about United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who he coached at Barcelona before offloading the Swede to Milan after a breakdown in their relationship.
“Zlatan I have a lot of respect for what he has done in his career,” said Guardiola. “What he did everywhere is amazing. He is one of the best players. Some players need time to understand the league but the big players don’t.”
Men to Watch
Manchester United-Zlatan Ibrahimovic
This will be the most expensive football match played in the Premier League, let alone in a derby. Players worth upwards of 681 million pounds are expected to take to the field, but ironically all eyes will be on the man who came strutting from Paris for free.
Good with both feet, lethal inside and outside the box, a bulldozing aerial presence and a footballing brain beyond his years, Zlatan Ibrahimovic poses a threat unlike any Pep Guardiola would have ever have had to organise against. Yes, Pep has played with and against Ibrahimovic in the past but with the bitterness between player and manager reaching breaking point, there would never come a better moment for the Swede to deliver the ultimate answer to a former coach who he once described as a “coward” among other things.
Antonio Valencia with his bags of crosses down the right channel, playing in tandem with Wayne Rooney and a driving force like Paul Pogba searing in from the middle and ‘Ibracadabra’ could cement his status as the ‘God of Mancher’ if he manages to get on the score sheet in a winning cause.
Manchester City-Raheem Sterling
The young Englishman seems to have started paying out on his bumper 50m fee. Starring along with Aguero in a new look Man City team, Guardiola’s phone call made after the Euros seems to have handed him a new lease of life. A marked improvement in his finishing and the Guardiola effect which has him thinking before he turns on the afterburners to leave his markers stranded he will be squaring up against an Valencia who himself is enjoying a renaissance under Mourinho, in just one of the many interesting subplots spread all over the park.
Both teams come into this one with a perfect league record so far. Mourinho’s men swept aside Bournemouth and Southampton before edging out Hull City. Meanwhile City have scored nine goals in wins over Sunderland, Stoke City and West Ham United.
After losing four Premier League Manchester derbies in a row, United are unbeaten in their last three against City (W2 D1).
Mourinho has won just three of his 16 meetings with Guardiola (D6 L7).
Guardiola didn’t win all of his opening four league games in charge of Barcelona B, Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
Guardiola is the first City manager to win his first five games in charge of the club, while Mourinho is the first manager to win his first four games in charge of United.
Wayne Rooney has scored 11 goals in Manchester derbies (all competitions) – more than any other player in the history of the fixture.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Pogba, Fellaini; Mata, Rooney, Martial; Ibrahimovic.
Manchester City: Bravo, Sagna, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy; Fernandinho, Gundogan; De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling; Nolito.
Editorial by Khel Now-Feature Columnist Chaitanya Lekhwani, He is a content creator and a writer. A devout Manchester United supporter and loves the good, bad and the ugly side of the beautiful game.
Favourite player: Ronaldo ‘Fenomeno’ Nazario de Lima
You can follow him on Twitter.