From Denis Law’s goal which relegated his former Manchester United side and George Best’s shocking tackle on Manchester City defender Glyn Pardoe to Roy Keane’s challenge on Alf-Inge Haaland and Wayne Rooney’s sensational overhead kick, the Manchester Derby is a spectacle that has seen it all.
And the summer of change in English football has added further subplots to this rivalry with former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola and his Real Madrid counterpart Jose Mourinho both aiming to excel in the northwest of England. These forces are set to collide next weekend in the virtual English equivalent of the El Classico, as action resumes after the ongoing international break.
But despite so much history between these two modern day managerial icons – dating back to when Mourinho worked with the coaching staff of the Barca team that once Pep played for – the upcoming edition of the derby will be about more than just the duo. Both sides, currently sitting pretty with perfect records in the league, also boast of star-studded squads.
When in full strength, both these sets of players would make for a mouth-watering matchup. But
given the unpredictable nature of the sport, one can expect the unexpected in terms of injuries and suspensions.
And as a result, some pretty integral names are doubts/ruled out for the September 10 clash, taking a little bit of sheen off the meeting. Here’s a look at how these absentees would affect either side or possibly even the outcome of the match.
A few months ago, the former Everton man was expected to head the axe list under the Portuguese manager. But Mourinho recently revealed that he gave the midfielder a phone call before the season had begun, to assure him of a place in his plans, and it seems to have worked wonders.
The Belgian has not only started all the three games under the former Porto manager, but has also been among the top performers in the Manchester United jersey so far. But unfortunately, for him and the team, there are question marks over his availability for the derby fixture after he is said to have injured his back during the Hull City encounter.
Partnering world record signing Paul Pogba – and once Ander Herrera – in the league so far, Fellaini has shielded the back four to great effect; conceding just once to maintain the best defensive record in the division.
Among midfielders in the league, he has affected the joint-third highest number of defensive actions, according to Squawka. A total of eight successful clearances, seven interceptions and three blocked shots have made up for no less than 18 such efforts.
The 28-year- old has also enjoyed one of the best records in terms of one-on- one duels for midfielders so far in the season. As expected, he has fared the best in the air, winning the ball on 11 occasions while making seven tackles and also emerging victorious in two out of two take ons.
To the delight of many United fans, Fellaini’s movement of the ball has also been less horizontal under Mourinho. The Belgian number 8 has made the second highest number of passes in the premier league with a remarkable 91 per cent accuracy. Though not collecting any assists for his efforts in the final third, the United man has also managed to make two key passes thus far.
During the manic celebrations after Marcus Rashford’s stoppage time winner at Hull City’s KCOM Stadium last week, the Belgian brushed past his teammates to help rescue a woman crushed against an advertising board. The act saw him earn the ‘hero’ label from some sections of the Red Devil supporters, a dramatic turnaround from being scapegoated for all of United’s troubles since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.
It will be a shame if the ‘hero’ won’t be able to come off the treatment table in time for the derby,particularly given the dream start that he has enjoyed under Jose Mourinho.
The Argentine has been terrorising Premier League defences for more than five seasons now and would have been rearing to go against the team from the red side of Manchester, against who he has netted eight derby goals in nine games since he opened his account in City’s 6-1 rout at Old Trafford in 2011.
However, the 28-year- old will have to sit out of the upcoming derby as a part of the three-game ban after the Football Association found him guilty of violent conduct for a clash with West Ham’s Winston Reid in the 3-1 win at the Etihad last week.
Guardiola will rue the loss of his first choice striker who has started the season in red hot form. Kun has scored six times in this season, including a hattrick in the Champions League first leg qualifier against the Romanian Steaua Bucharest.
The joint top scorer in the league with three strikes, Aguero also has the highest number of shots on target with 15 efforts so far. United’s central defensive pairing of Daily Blind and Eric Bailly hasn’t faced world-class attacks so far and Aguero’s shot-taking abilities, physicality and speed would have definitely put them through a stern test.
With Wilfred Bony jettisoned on loan, the men in blue will most likely turn to new signing Nolito for the upcoming clash. Apart from a goal and an assist in the first leg playoff against Bucharest, the former Celta Vigo man also notched up a brace on his premier league debut, coming off the bench in the second half.
Three matches is a long time in football. But if Nolito can replicate the form that he showed in the La Liga last season, he could just be the silver lining for Guardiola in this scenario.
It had been a lacklustre first hour or so during United’s visit to Hull. With Man United fans across the globe urging Mourinho to bring Miki off the bench, the moment finally arrived. In his longest stint on the pitch in a Premier League match, United’s second summer acquisition made an instant impact; dribbling past a couple of players and earning free kicks in promising positions.
Although he was not directly involved in his team’s last-gasp winner, the Armenian international
brought much-needed incision to United’s forward line that had struggled to break through against Mike Phelan’s men. The 27-year- old had done himself enough to earn a place in the starting XI for the derby, that night.
But as fate would have it, the forward picked up a knock in an off-the- ball collision with Marek Suchy during the first half of Armenia’s friendly with the Czech Republic on Wednesday. The extent of the former Borussia Dortmund player’s time on the sidelines remains to be seen, but signs don’t look promising.
“Mkhitaryan was found to have an injury in the lower third of the left thigh muscle. Such injuries usually require a week to 10 days to heal, which means that Mkhitaryan will miss the Denmark-Armenia match on September 4,” the Armenian FA said in a recent statement.
However, the playmaker returned to Manchester on Saturday to be assessed by the club’s medical staff at Carrington. He later tweeted, “My dear fans, I appreciate much that you worry about me, thank you! I’m now back in Manchester for treatment and hope to be fit very soon!”
How soon, though, wonder Man United fans.