The 172nd Manchester Derby awaits us this weekend in what is set to feature the most expensively ever assembled squads going up against each other at Old Trafford between the red half, Manchester United, and the blue, Manchester City.
This gargantuan encounter between two bitter rivals has only been intensified by the two men at the helm of either club in Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho who share as dark a hatred towards each other as the two Manchester clubs do.
It all began at Barcelona, when Guardiola was promoted from coaching the Catalan’s youth side to become the first-team manager, with Mourinho being snubbed for the position despite his years of service.
Jose never fully recovered and has had held resentment for Guardiola ever since, baiting him whenever possible during his tenure at Real Madrid.
The atmosphere in England has been somewhat subdued since their arrival in Manchester. Was it a coincidence that two characters pitted against each other in Spain at the country’s biggest clubs would have to do the same here?
This is so much more than just three points and bragging rights over one’s rivals for both Pep and Mourinho. This clash has such a personal feel it will be as if both managers wish to run upon the pitch and dictate play themselves, such is their need to orchestrate perfection from their team.
Both have spent enormous sums of money this summer, with the eventual goal evidently being trophy success in the Champions League.
The race to win the Premier League is between the Manchester clubs, too. That is without doubt, despite the quality in Chelsea’s team, and Arsenal’s.
Guardiola is the philosopher; each pattern of play has been carefully examined, tweaked and perfected in order to ensure maximum efficiency.
Mourinho has always been the more bullish of the two; to win is expected, and he will do it through any means necessary.
However, based on Pep’s success, Mourinho will feel that he must defeat his counterpart in order to acquire the Premier League title. It is not simply a case of one team beating another, the quintessential element of the ideal trophy triumph is that it has to be Guardiola that falls.
As aforementioned, neither have been afraid to utilise financial resources in order to boost their aims, so we’ve compared the usual line-ups of both teams and examined what player comes out on top when pitted against a rival in a similar position.
Of course, seeing as Guardiola is favouring a flexible 4-3-3 with the Citizens whilst Mourinho deploys a 4-2-3-1 with the Red Devils, our match-ups may not equate to having two players in exactly the same position.
For example, despite Paul Pogba operating in a pivot alongside Marouane Fellaini at United, we know that his favourite position is on the left side of a three-man midfield.
We also have the knowledge that David Silva has enjoyed that role in the past for City, which means we can accurately compare the two through their transfer fees and value to the club.
And as we are using the most favoured line-ups of each club, you can expect Vincent Kompany and Sergio Agüero to compete against some big United stars.
Our thanks to @Cammy1885 for the feature image.
We hope you enjoy this one!
[tie_slide] Claudio Bravo vs. David de Gea
Two wonderful goalkeepers on display here, there is no doubt about that. For us, however, de Gea has been nothing short of sensational between the sticks for the Red Devils, and he has done remarkably well to steady himself after a nervy start to life at Old Trafford. In addition, the defence that the Spaniard has had to contend with has been quite suspect.
Bravo, on the other hand, arrives with a formidable reputation intact following two seasons with Barcelona in La Liga, and despite his dexterity when one has Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique as a centre-back pairing, it does make life just that little bit easier.
Both goalkeepers have a similar price tag, but we can’t help but feel de Gea is already worth three times over what United paid for him.
Winner: Manchester United.
[tie_slide] Pablo Zabaleta vs. Antonio Valencia
We’ve been really impressed with how Antonio Valencia has started the season, with the Ecuadorian internationally finally starting to work on his defensive ability. Every fan is aware of Valencia’s incredible pace, but it can sometimes be the undoing of him with the 31-year-old eager to engage in and instigate attacks further upfield.
However, under Mourinho, Valencia is a more controlled player, just that little more astute than he was in previous seasons.
Zabaleta, on the other hand, has been one of the Premier League’s most consistent performers since arriving from Espanyol in 2008 and was convinced to stay by Guardiola who clearly still values the Argentinian’s vast experience.
Injuries may have bested Zabaleta in recent cases, but considering the minimal amount the Citizens forked out for the right-back, he has to be our choice here. A fantastic servant.
Winner: Manchester City. [/tie_slide]
[tie_slide] John Stones vs. Eric Bailly
Bailly looks to be one of the signings of the summer already after a string of outstanding performances since his arrival from Villareal in July for £30 million.
Zlatan and Wayne Rooney seemed to be in a state of shock when Bailly was awarded the man of the match following the opening day victory over AFC Bournemouth, but Bailly has duly dismissed his doubters.
Bailly is looking like a force to be reckoned with at centre-back. The Ivorian, 22, has quite ridiculous statistics for this campaign, winning 100 % of his aerial duels, completing 95 % of his passes, making nine interceptions and sixteen clearances.
Stones has also started well at the Etihad, and it is evident that his new found form under Guardiola has transferred over to his performances with England, but he is no match for Bailly, not yet anyhow. An easy victory for the Reds here, with Bailly’s transfer fee much more justifiable.
Winner: Manchester United. [/tie_slide]
[tie_slide] Vincent Kompany vs. Daley Blind
A fan favourite for United fans, Blind has improved vastly much like de Gea ever since a troubling beginning. Moving from Ajax, the transition from the Eredivisie to the Premier League isn’t always seamless, as Blind proved.
However, after eventually settling into a place at centre-back alongside Chris Smalling, the 26-year-old slowly began to justify his price tag.
Kompany also draws parallels with another team-mate in Zabaleta for his incredible consistency. Unfortunately, another factor they share is a list of injuries they have had to battle, but when fit there are few and far defenders who are able to rival the Belgian in terms of quality.
Based on his prowess on the pitch as well as the ridiculously low price City paid Hamburg for him, this round goes to the Blues.
Winner: Manchester City [/tie_slide]
[tie_slide] Gael Clichy vs Luke Shaw
Shaw has been outstanding since his return from a horrific double leg-break sustained against PSV in the Champions League. Having arrived for a questionable sum, prior and post to his injury the left-back has been a reliable attacking outlet and a formidable defender for wingers to try and oust, not often with success.
Clichy has been far from as awful as Arsenal fans will have you believe since his move to Manchester, and despite the relatively small fee City paid the Gunners for the Frenchman’s services, one would struggle to find a club willing to commit the same fee for Clichy at the age of 31.
In stark contrast, it is not difficult to imagine that Shaw would fetch his clubs north of £40 million should they decide to sell the former Southampton star.
Winner: Manchester United [/tie_slide]
[tie_slide] Fernandinho vs. Maraoune Fellaini
Fellaini is somewhat of a controversial figure. His clumsy footwork coupled with needless challenges in dangerous positions forced a cacophony of noise to erupt from the maws of enraged Manchester United fans, who demanded that the midfielder exit the club.
A trait that Mourinho and Guardiola share, albeit one that the Spaniard is far better that, is changing the way a footballer plays in order to enhance his performance. That is easily visible from Fellaini’s early season displays.
However, Fernandinho has been an exemplary leader in both Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola’s side, with the Brazilian hailing a change in mentality as the reason why the club have started the season so well.
Man City’s official site struggled to split them apart, pointing out that whilst Fellaini has made more tackles, Fernandinho has been more successful.
We just have City’s man edging this one as he has proved to be worth the £30 million tag, which cannot be said for Fellaini just yet.
Winner: Manchester City.
[tie_slide] David Silva vs. Paul Pogba
This was a difficult one to decide. Pogba’s enormous transfer fee makes it so difficult to justify his value, but it’s obvious the Frenchman has an abundance of quality and will undoubtedly strengthen United’s midfield. The 23-year-old’s strong performances are an indication of what a fantastic signing Mourinho has made.
On the other hand, signing David Silva for £24 million is amongst the bargains of the decade, and Pogba is not worth the £89 million that has been sent duly towards Juventus and his agent, Mino Raiola. Silva has the ability to play in a variety of positions, and at his brilliant best is one of the finest players to grace the top flight.
Silva has been playing in a slightly deeper role than he is accustomed to, but is evidently enjoying the role in Guardiola’s team, oozing class against West Ham.
We have to back the Spaniard here, who has been an incredible footballer for a number of years.
Winner: Manchester City [/tie_slide]
[tie_slide] Raheem Sterling vs. Juan Mata
Neither recruit was cheap for the Manchester clubs, but Mata has been an impressive signing, given all things considered. Mata was the third highest scorer for Louis van Gaal’s side last season and has been a steady contributor as one of the team’s attacking threats.
Sterling meanwhile did not enjoy the smoothest of debut seasons at Manchester City following his £49 million move from Liverpool last summer, and his disastrous campaign culminated in a number of shocking appearances at this summer’s European Championships.
Under Guardiola though, Sterling has been attacking on the right side of a front three, but has been allowed to drift into various open spaces on that side of the pitch.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Jamaican-born attacker has been one of the Premier League’s best players this season, but he will have to maintain a strong level of consistency in order to prove his worth.
Juan Mata, to put it simply, already has.
Winner: Manchester United
[tie_slide] Nolito vs Anthony Martial
Martial may not be enjoying life under Mourinho, but had a terrific debut against Liverpool last season following a move that could rise to £58 million in a performance which set the tone for a strong season for the Frenchman, scoring eleven whilst creating thirty-seven chances and making thirty-three key passes.
Nolito, having only just arrived, has enjoyed a fine start to life in England, but Martial looks to be of higher value considering the calibre of player he is at just twenty years old.
Of the two players this season though, it is the boy in blue who has been more successful in his ventures, but Martial nicks this one.
Winner: Manchester United [/tie_slide]
[tie_slide] Kevin de Bruyne vs Wayne Rooney
There is no arguing that de Bruyne is a far better player than Rooney is now, with the all-time top scorer for England well past his peak, but after over ten years of service to Manchester United, the only other player who paid off his transfer fee more than Rooney is Cristiano Ronaldo, who left the club for £80 million in 2009.
Man City’s brilliant Belgian has been phenomenal since his late summer move from Wolfsburg in 2015. It did not take de Bruyne long to adjust to new surroundings having played in the Premier League with Chelsea, and he has shown why the London outfit made such a horrendous mistake when selling the playmaker.
His seven goals and nine assists, as well as creating a superb eighty-one chances for his team-mates, just shows what a remarkable player he is.
However, we are talking about the value for money, and Rooney has single-handedly won titles for United, which de Bruyne cannot claim just yet.
Winner: Manchester United [/tie_slide]
Sergio Agüero vs. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
We conclude by examing what will be one of the tighest battles between two extraordinary strikers for the golden boot this season. Zlatan has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, scoring three times in the same number of matches, and the club secured him on a free transfer to boot.
Agüero has thus far matched Zlatan’s total, but will likely fall behind after being disciplined by the FA for his elbow on Winston Reid in which duly handed the former Atletico Madrid forward an automatic three-match ban.
As a whole, the 28-year-old can now look back on his career at City and proudly say that he has been one of the league’s best ever players.
His total of 105 goals from 152 games is sensational, and without his goals, there is no possibility that either Roberto Mancini or Manuel Pellegrini would have won the league. As such, he is quite like Rooney in this regard, with the difference being that Agüero is still a phenomenal forward.
Ibra may not have cost United a penny, but his extortionate wages still mean that he must prove himself at Old Trafford.
Wayne Rooney proved pivotal in deciding this clash, will the same be said after Saturday’s game?
Bring on the derby..