Talking points before the 188th Manchester derby
It’s safe to say the football world will be watching on Sunday when the 188th Manchester derby takes place between City and United at the Etihad Stadium.
BIGGEST TEST OF OUR NEW ERA
After a challenging start to the season, Erik ten Hag has overseen a dramatic improvement at United and the squad has recorded four consecutive league wins. The first was an electrifying victory over rivals Liverpool and the most recent was against leaders Arsenal: beating both of those big guns showed the squad is moving in a positive direction, but champions City are the biggest test of them all and Sunday’s derby represents a great opportunity to take another significant step forward. The squad is confident, the fans are excited and that 14:00 BST kick-off can't come quickly enough.
THE IMPORTANCE OF OCTOBER
Sunday’s match will be the first of nine in October and our research states that is the most we’ve ever contested in that month. It will also be our first Premier League game in exactly four weeks, after two top-flight fixtures were postponed following the passing of Her Majesty The Queen. A positive performance and result would certainly help to build momentum at the start of a crucial period.
Ten Hag and Guardiola are now cross-city rivals, but they were once colleagues at former club Bayern Munich when Erik was in charge of the German side’s second team (2013-15) and Pep was coaching the seniors. It is said the Dutchman paid close attention to the Catalan’s methods and is naturally full of respect for his uber-successful career so far. Sunday will be their first match against each other as managers and it will be fascinating to observe their touchline interactions.
WELCOME TO THE RIVALRY
Up to six United players could feature in their first Manchester derbies this weekend and that includes Raphael Varane, who missed both games in his debut season due to injury. The list also features new signings Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia, Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Antony, who all have big-game experience and will surely relish the occasion on Sunday. Could one of them steal the show?
Ten Hag started the same XI against Liverpool, Southampton and Leicester before he made one change by handing Antony his debut v Arsenal. So how might he approach this weekend? Malacia has shone at left-back but Luke Shaw’s goal-scoring appearance for England could give Erik something to consider. Similarly, Scott McTominay has been superb in midfield yet Casemiro is getting fitter and he did well for Brazil in the break. The biggest question mark perhaps surrounds in-form Marcus Rashford after injury ruled him out of our most recent Europa League matches, while fellow forward Anthony Martial has also not featured since 22 August. From a City perspective, Guardiola is without new signing Kalvin Phillips and John Stones is presumably a doubt after getting injured with England, although reports suggest they could welcome Aymeric Laporte back.
Back at CarringtonGallery
Tuesday's training session featured the first of our international Reds to return from representing their nations.
City have quality all over the pitch, but the addition of Erling Haaland has unquestionably added a new dimension to their game and the Norwegian has already scored 11 league goals this season. Our focus is on us, of course, but it would be foolish not to think about the Blues’ no.9 and how we might handle him. The stats show he doesn’t touch the ball often – sometimes just 10 times a game – but when he does it’s often devastating. Interestingly, Varane has never faced him before, but Martinez has done once: a 4-0 win for Ten Hag’s Ajax over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. If selected, both centre-backs will be determined to keep Haaland quiet.
MUTV’s live build-up to City v United starts at 12:55 BST on Sunday.