Five Manchester derby key battles as Guardiola and Mourinho renew rivalry
Lee Gormley | September 6, 2016
Five Manchester derby key battles
The enmity between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola is well-known and stretches far back to their early footballing careers, though the real battles in the upcoming Manchester derby will take place on the Old Trafford pitch this weekend.
With Mourinho now in charge of Manchester United (23/20 with Coral to win), and long-standing coaching rival Guardiola in the hotseat at Manchester City (12/5), derby day is set to have further animosity with such an intriguing sideline subplot.
Both clubs spent big in the summer transfer window in order to challenge for the Premier League title once again, with a host of fresh faces set to collide at Old Trafford.
So, ahead of Saturday’s early kick-off, Coral outline five Manchester derby key battles that could determine the outcome of this potentially enthralling fixture.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic v John Stones
Former PSG sharpshooter Ibrahimovic has already made a significant impact on the red half of Manchester since arriving for free in the summer, netting three league goals in as many outings, as well as the Community Shield winner at Wembley.
On the other side of the city, the Sky Blues finally got their man when landing England international defender Stones for a hefty £47.5m, with his former employers Everton having held out firmly to receive such a mammoth fee.
Both Ibrahimovic and Stones have made big differences at their respective ends of the pitch in new surroundings this season, and the battle between the Swedish goalscoring superstar and young, ball-playing centre back could be key to where bragging rights end up come Saturday evening.
Retired all-time Sweden finisher Ibrahimovic is 11/2 to open the scoring on home soil, having bagged a brace on his only other outing at Old Trafford so far this term, with Guardiola needing a big showing from Stones in order to halt the threat of his former Barcelona colleague.
Paul Pogba v Fernandinho
France midfielder Pogba’s return to Man Utd saw him become the world’s most expensive player, and it’s in huge crunch clashes like this that Mourinho will expect to get his money’s worth from the former Juventus ace.
The 23-year-old enjoyed a promising second debut in the win over Southampton, but endured a much more mellowed outing in the narrow victory against Hull City before the international break, and he will next come up against Brazilian enforcer Fernandinho on derby day.
It’s clear from the early stages of this campaign that Guardiola sees Fernandinho as a key cog in his central areas, plotting him in front of his rearguard as protection, and he may be called upon to do a marking job on Pogba in this match-up.
Despite having been on the Red Devils’ books for three years in his first stint, this will be his first derby appearance for the club, and the Frenchman is 11/4 to grab his first goal on what would be the most timely of occasions.
Marouane Fellaini v Kevin De Bruyne
In an interesting midfield clash between Belgium international teammates, Man Utd’s Fellaini will need a strong showing on home turf to keep Man City playmaker De Bruyne out of the action.
The latter attacker has showed glimpses of brilliance going forward this season, starring alongside David Silva and Raheem Sterling, with his direct approach and eye for a killer pass having helped dispatch both Stoke City and West Ham United.
Although, with Sergio Aguero suspended, will De Bruyne be able to continue his impressive start? The banned Argentine frontman provides De Bruyne and the other attackers with well-timed runs to pick out, and his absence may have an affect on the Belgian.
Last season, De Bruyne also struggled on the road, while flourishing in home outings, and aggressive Red Devils midfielder Fellaini will look to give him a tough afternoon, having become a surprise star in the centre under Mourinho so far.
Luke Shaw v Raheem Sterling
With Man Utd left back Shaw having returned from injury this term and Sky Blues wideman Sterling finally starting to live up to his huge transfer fee, both players have been like new signings for their respective sides.
This could be an entertaining and decisive battle on the flanks of Old Trafford, with Shaw coming up against a rejuvenated fellow England international, who has looked impressive under the new guidance of Guardiola.
Sterling was the star of the show in the victory over West Ham recently, bagging a brace and producing an all-round dazzling display, with Shaw soon to be entrusted with halting the winger’s influence form the wide areas.
After recovering from a horrific broken leg, Shaw has again provided Man Utd with a constant outlet down the left flank, while also giving Mourinho a sense of reassurance when undertaking defensive duties too. Sterling will enter proceedings at 7/2 to strike anytime, ahead of a key derby duel with compatriot Shaw.
Eric Bailly v Kelechi Iheanacho
Despite Ibrahimovic already firing in the goals at Old Trafford, it’s Ivory Coast international defender Bailly that has starred heavily for Man Utd so far this current campaign and become a huge hit with the fans.
The 22-year-old former Villarreal centre back looks to have all the makings to follow in the footsteps of previous club stalwart and skipper Nemanja Vidic, with his aerial dominance, hard tackling and aggressive approach seeing him become Mourinho’s key defender, also keeping out Chris Smalling in the process.
Bailly won’t have to worry about the threat of Aguero this Saturday, but fellow youngster Iheanacho will be out to prove his worth after recently firing in a thunderbolt for Nigeria while on international duty.
With a seemingly easier task at hand for Bailly than originally expected, the African will look to exert his authority early against teenage frontman Iheanacho, who is 2/1 to get on the scoresheet anytime, and produce yet another complete performance.
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