Man Utd vs Man City: Players in Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squads ranked

  • Kobe Tong

Manchester United’s entire 2020/21 season could be defined by the visit of Manchester City this weekend.

To say that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side has been inconsistent this season would be a huge understatement, jumping from a dramatic victory to crushing defeat on an almost weekly basis.

For every 2-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain or 3-2 comeback against Southampton, there has been the first Old Trafford defeat to Arsenal in 14 years and the 6-1 humiliation dished out by Tottenham.

Man Utd’s 2020/21 season

At the moment, it just happens that United are in a pretty negative headspace having dropped out of the Champions League group stages, coming unstuck with a 3-2 defeat at RB Leipzig.

However, the Solskjaer tenure being the Solskjaer tenure, you wouldn’t be surprised if United made a mockery of the negativity by securing the most unlikely of victories over their ‘noisy neighbours’.

After all, United have an uncanny knack of delivering massive results when Solskjaer’s job seems under threat and the Norwegian actually boasts a pretty impressive record against the ‘top six’.


Manchester Derby

But victory won’t come easy with Pep Guardiola hoping to breathe life into City’s own title hopes after a stop-start first ten games that sees them dawdling outside the top four.

In other words, there’s plenty to play for on either side of the Manchester battle-lines and here at GIVEMESPORT, we decided to put the troops at both managers’ disposal in the spotlight.

Besides, the final details of team selections could be the difference between winning and losing, so we wanted to see just how the players in the City and United dressing rooms really compared.

Regular readers will know that Tiermaker is the ultimate medium for this very conundrum and we’ve piled the City and United players who are closest to the starting XI into our very own ranking.


Ranking Man City and Man Utd players

So, yes, strictly speaking, not every single player is present, but the main belligerents have been ordered into tiers ranging from ‘world-class’ to ‘overrated’ with six rungs in between.

Doubtless, our final selections will get the debate going ahead of the Manchester derby and there’s certainly no one right answer, but you can check out our best attempt at it down below:


Paul Pogba and Gabriel Jesus

Now, let’s get one thing straight, ‘overrated’ certainly doesn’t mean terrible and both Pogba and Jesus are superior players to the City and United outsiders in the next few tiers above them.

But for our money, they simply don’t justify the hype they receive from fans with Pogba proving a bigger problem at United than a solution, while Jesus’ solid goal-scoring stats flatter to deceive.



Joao Cancelo, Eric Bailly, Daniel James and John Stones

Cancelo, Bailly and Stones all have one thing in common: big-money defensive signings who, across a smorgasbord of reasons including injuries and inconsistency, have struggled to live up to expectations.

Meanwhile, James has failed to demonstrate that he’s up to the United standard since his thrilling start at the club, scoring just twice in his last 48 games, despite being an undeniably great bloke. 


Middle of the road

Dean Henderson, Victor Lindelof, Scott McTominay, Benjamin Mendy, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Axel Tuanzebe and Oleksandr Zinchenko

A packed category, there’s no doubt about it. Mendy and Zinchenko are the sole representatives for City as two defenders who, despite being solid options on their day, have gone off the boil in 2020.

It’s hard to reward Lindelof and McTominay as anything higher than ‘middle of the road’ when they continue to stand out as two of Solskjaer’s least reliable starters in the defensive areas of the pitch.

Meanwhile, Matic and Mata are both past their best at Old Trafford, although they still have plenty to offer as squad players, while the jury is out on Henderson until he gains more experience in the big games.



Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw

Have I lost my mind!? No, I haven’t. It might seem ludicrous to brand three members of the United back four that has proven so mistake-prone over the last six months anything close to ‘underrated’.

But for me, the criticism these three players receive borders on hyperbolic when Shaw and Wan-Bissaka are two of England’s standout performers in their positions and Maguire is world-class on his day.



Fernandinho, Nathan Ake, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Ferran Torres, Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani 

A couple of years ago, Fernandinho and Cavani would have placed much higher in our list, but despite father time taking a chunk out of them, they’ve remained crucial options for their teams this season.

At the other end of the age spectrum lies Greenwood and Torres, who already boast a combined 26 goals for the Manchester clubs and are knocking on the door of the higher tiers as some of the sport’s most exciting young talents.

Meanwhile, we’re still reserving judgement on whether Ake and Telles can hold their own at the highest level, while Martial tends to be ‘world-class’ one game and then ‘middle of the road’ the next.


Very good

Donny van de Beek, David de Gea, Phil Foden, Fred, İlkay Gündoğan, Kyle Walker, Marcus Rashford, Rodri and Bernardo Silva

We’re now into the podium places, so credit to all the players who’ve made it, but especially to De Gea for turning around his post-2018 form to regain his status as one of the world’s best ‘keepers.

His teammates further up the pitch are also deserving of praise with Fred and Van de Beek always delivering – give or take a certain PSG red card – in the United midfield when they’re given game time.

Gündoğan and Rodri are similarly classy operators in the centre of the park for City and although Silva is unquestionably world-class at his best, we haven’t seen that consistently for 18 months now.

Walker is one of the best defenders in the Premier League, Foden is one of Europe’s most able young players and Rashford deserves props for his brilliance on the pitch as well as his class off it.


Pure brilliance

Sergio Aguero, Ederson, Aymeric Laporte and Riyad Mahrez

For starters, Ederson and Laporte are only second to Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk in their positions in the Premier League, marshalling the spine of City’s title-winning sides in 2018 and 2019.

Mahrez is certainly the most controversial inclusion, granted, but he’s arguably been City’s best player since the start of last season and would be world-class for our money if he was more consistent.

And if it wasn’t for injuries side-swiping his form over the last 18 months, then Aguero would most certainly join the top tier, but forgive us for fearing that we might finally be watching his slow decline.



Bruno Fernandes, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling

Ah, welcome to the top table. Fernandes and De Bruyne might well be the Premier League’s best two footballers right now, but, at the very least, they’ve been the division’s best performers across 2020.

And while Sterling’s seat is slightly less assured, lest we forget that the England star is arguably the sport’s freest-scoring wideman and 85 goals since 2017/18 simply must be considered world-class.


Full graphic


GIVEMESPORT’s Kobe Tong says

Despite the balance of power in Manchester proving much closer than you might imagine, I think we can all agree that Guardiola has more firepower to call upon at Old Trafford this weekend.

We haven’t seen the Citizens flirt with the sort of form that saw them win back-to-back Premier League titles yet, but players like De Bruyne and Sterling are ticking time bombs for a purple patch.

Then again, if United are to stand any chance of winning, then their star man Fernandes will surely be at the heart of it as he continues to prove himself as the club’s finest signing since 2013.


The Portuguese midfielder really is capable of hauling world-class performances out of some of his ‘lesser’ United teammates, even if we think his nearest comrades are at least two tiers below him.

However, quality isn’t everything and that couldn’t be more the case than during a Premier League derby where outright passion and desire can often dictate the winner.

Much like the Antony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev fight later that evening, it could simply be a case of the two sides clubbing each other repeatedly until one of them inevitably can take it no longer.

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