Old Foes Renew Old Rivalries

Building Up to the Manchester Derby

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“We are not a team that gives up. We are a team that always finds a way to fight back. Sometimes changing results, sometimes not. But we are team that has a collective spirit to fight back.” Mourinho

When Jose Mourinho took over the reins at United in 2016 it was nights like those the United faithful envisaged – Fergie time fever, looking dead but not quite, one man on the touchline touching his watch with that look of expectancy in his eyes, you know it’s coming don’t you? Such was the night in Turin on Wednesday and three other matches prior – it is not over until it actually is.

The season has been like that for the Red Devils, looked bereft of ideas on the pitch amidst issues of dressing room rows, player revolts etc., in fact the man could have been sacked as recently as Newcastle suddenly they are only four points off Spurs who are in fourth after just eleven games, not that bad is it?

It’s the Manchester Derby on Sunday, Manchester United were not supposed to go into that game beaming with confidence, it was supposed to be “oh we are going to get battered” – some still think that might happen but majority don’t, that’s the most important and it’s all down to the fact that that grit in the United of old seem to have resurfaced, they are never dead until they actually are.

Manchester City are playing quite some football, they are unbeaten in the league and top of the pile with a +29 goal difference yes +29, ridiculous to say the least, what’s even more impressive is that they’ve just conceded four times this season keeping seven clean sheets in the process, they’ve quite simply been better than everybody else. It’s been the direct opposite for Manchester United though they only recently gained a + goal difference and this is a team that had one of the best defensive records last term you get the sense that amongst other things they have to somehow evoke a defensive masterclass on Sunday or it could be a battering afterall.

“We have to play good. If we play good, we have a chance to win. You cannot imagine we are going to play amazingly for 90 minutes against top teams” – Pep

The stakes were much much higher for Manchester City in the same fixture last season, it was there for the taking many suggested, it was a case of beat your fiercest rivals at home and win the league, in the end they couldn’t even though that didn’t ultimately cost them the title. You however get the sense that Manchester United will be riding on that result for confidence and belief.

Manchester City are of course still heavy favourites for this one in any case they have become better while United have regressed and that’s purely based on what we’ve seen this seen. Not many thought City could maintain their level especially as their best player from last season Kevin DeBruyne has been out for most of the season, for many teams that is suicide, it is absolute doom. Imagine Spurs without Kane or Chelsea without Hazard or even Palace without Zaha you would fear the worst but that hasn’t been the case for Manchester City Pep’s genius has made up for it.

City’s standout player this term has been Raheem Sterling, you’d say that’s arguable but the Englishman is currently playing his best football yet.The Englishman has 13 goal contributions in 14 matches across all competitions this season, he’s hit six goals and set up another 5 in 9 matches in the premier league. It’s quite astonishing in terms of just how much Sterling has improved since Pep arrived in the Premier League, the stats are evidence enough. The club’s belief in him has seen them award him with a new three-year contract. City have had Aguero, David Silva, Laporte, Stones and most of their stars in top form this season but you get the sense that it is Sterling who will pose the major threat to the United defence come Sunday.

On the United divide you’d have to look at Anthony Martial, the Frenchman has found form over the last couple of games and just like Raheem Sterling it’s quite an astonishing turn of events especially in Martial’s case. Only weeks ago there was talk of him rejecting a contract offer siting an unwillingness to play for Jose Mourinho as early as pre-season there was evidence of a breakdown in the relationship between the two but things have quickly turned – “I knew he needed to overcome some barriers to become a really top player. It is up to him, because he has phenomenal talent”  – Jose on Martial, and it’s not surprising that upturn in form has coincided in United’s upturn in results, if he turns on his a-game over the weekend City are sure to have problems especially as both Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba remain doubts for the game.

“We are both good guys, more than you expect!” – Pep

The focus has somewhat drifted from Pep v Mou to City v United but I can tell you for a fact both men will try to outdo each other once more as they’ve always done throughout their career. Since both managers arrived in the Premier League in 2016 it’s been two wins apiece and a draw in all competitions 2 to 1 in terms of Premier League matches, but for Pep it’s the added incentive not to lose twice on a row at home to his fiercest rival that’s must tis a must win for him, Mourinho might need it more and with the momentum United have from their midweek heroics this is sure to be an interesting matchup. Pep will by no means underrate Jose but it’s up to the City players to follow in that stead because as United have shown in recent times, they are not quite dead until they actually are.

 

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