On Sunday we welcome the first Manchester derby of the season, and it’s an intriguing one.
There’s a whole host of potential players – on both sides, but mainly on the Red side – who could appear in the derby for the first time.
Will the pressure get to them? Will it not matter at all? Let’s have a look at some of the players and how they’re likely to perform.
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Manchester United – Morgan Schneiderlin
When Southampton played Manchester City last season they conceded five without response, which doesn’t bode well for United if Schneiderlin plays as one of their two central midfielders.
But the Frenchman was exactly what United were missing in their defeat against Arsenal, and with no David Silva to pick up, Schneiderlin’s job is looking a whole lot easier.
The Italian right-back has been as consistent as any United player this season, and was rested midweek against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League – presumably to prepare for the threat of Raheem Sterling.
Darmian has the pace to deal with Sterling as well as the quality in the tackle, and he’ll need to bring his A-game to keep the most expensive Englishman ever quiet.
The experienced German World Cup winner should have no problems settling into the derby, if he starts, and his composure on the ball will be needed to counteract Yaya Toure’s ability to keep the play ticking over for City.
We’ve yet to see the best of Schweinsteiger in a United shirt but there’s no better place to show he’s still got it than at Old Trafford against the team from the other side of Manchester – although if he could’ve shown it at the Emirates earlier in the season that would probably have been appreciated just as much by the fans.
Depay was probably the signing United fans were most excited about over the summer, but he’s yet to show us anything on a consistent basis. He’ll face a tough game against Bacary Sagna but you feel it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing brilliance from the 21-year-old regularly.
A few early runs would have the benefit of both renewing Depay’s confidence and making Sagna question his ability to deal with the winger, and United would do well to get him the ball as often as possible early on.
Lingard started in Depay’s place in Moscow in midweek, and definitely did himself no harm. Van Gaal’s clearly a fan of the 22-year-old and you feel this might be his last season to try and gain a regular place in the United side before having to consider moving on permanently.
But, only one of Depay and Lingard is likely to start, so Lingard might have to make an impact from the bench if he’s to make his derby debut.
We’ve already seen that not much flusters Martial – not a ?36 million move to one of the biggest clubs in the world as a 19-year-old, not facing Liverpool on his debut, and not being responsible for a penalty away in Moscow in the Champions League.
In fact, from what we’ve seen so far, it wouldn’t be a bad bet to suggest Martial will walk away from the game as man of the match.
Manchester City – Kevin de Bruyne
Let’s be honest, we were all wondering if De Bruyne would be able to follow up his terrific exploits in last season’s Bundesliga after coming back to the Premier League, and so far that question has been answered with a resounding yes.
With the absence of Silva, De Bruyne is probably hoping to start in his favoured position behind the striker against United and that should terrify Chris Smalling. The United centre-back, their best defender this season, will have to be aware of being drawn out to deal with De Bruyne and the space that would leave behind him for Wilfried Bony – Smalling’s midfielders should help with this.
Sterling has played in big games against United before for Liverpool, and has been part of some memorable wins – including the three-nil at Old Trafford a few seasons ago.
Sure, he’s likely to get booed with every touch he takes, and we’ve seen that affect him before – but following on from his hat-trick against Bournemouth and his goal for England, expect him to be out to silence the Old Trafford crowd.
Eliaquim Mangala and Otamendi have struck up a better partnership than many predicted in Vincent Kompany’s absence, and they’ll need to follow up their three recent victories together with another solid performance if they’re to keep the likes of Juan Mata and Martial quiet.
The Argentinian has experience of playing in big games for both club and country, and doesn’t seem the type likely to suffer a rush of blood to the head.
In recent seasons City have been able to call on the likes of Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic – but three of those are currently not with the club and one is injured. This means that heading into the derby Pellegrini has only Bony and Iheanacho – 10 months younger than Martial – to call upon.
Iheanacho is likely to be on the bench against United but could get some time in the match – and he’s proven once already this season that he can find the net, in a game against Crystal Palace.
He won’t be flustered if he does get sent on, telling City’s website: “I haven?t thought that much about it because I?ve never played in a Manchester derby before and I don?t know what it feels like so for me, it would just be a normal game and I wouldn’t play my football any differently.”
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