Plenty on the line in a Manchester derby that’s pretty much irrelevant to everyone else. The Citizens need a win to keep 4th spot ahead of ascendant West Ham, while the Red Devils need a win to keep their dreams of 4th alive. A draw suits neither, which hopefully means we will see a goal or two and a real battle. Both sides have been under heavy scrutiny over the past weeks, with poor results and under-performing players the focus of much criticism. The latest subject of boasts has been United’s promotion of several academy players, but neither side would field a single player from the north-west ever again if it meant they won the title every year. The Manchester clubs are thinking big, with City looking to spread its franchise through satellite clubs and United sponsoring every product with a label. Actually having to play football appears to be an afterthought.
Kompany stuck on the sidelines once again is a tragedy for the sport. Whatever your affiliation, most can appreciate the City skipper’s thoughtful personality and brilliant defensive contribution. Unfortunately, if he can’t string together an uninjured run then Guardiola is likely to look to replace the Belgian. So this is Mangala’s chance—an extended audition in the run-in. The thing is, Mangala still hasn’t adapted to the Premier League despite innumerable chances. He’s likely to be paired with Demichelis and the two of them will look to shut down Juan Mata and isolate Anthony Martial. Perhaps with the home advantage, that will be enough.
Arguably the most successful Manchester United signing since Alex Ferguson left, there is no disguising the bruising and frankly dirty play of Fellaini. Despite his insistence it’s all in good faith, there have been too many incidents of the afro-sporting Belgian deliberately elbowing opponents. Or headbutting them, comically looking around to check the ref isn’t looking. That being said, he tends to get away with it, so should actually be a good pick for FLIP teams. It’s a useful tactic to wind up the opposition in high-pressure fixtures like this one.
Another City player who has suffered too many injuries, Aguero would probably have won the Golden Boot every season in England if he could stay fit. The Argentinian is the best striker in England on paper, but Harry Kane does a great deal more for Spurs by being reliable even when he isn’t finding the net. Likewise Vardy for Leicester. Perhaps the Citizens would be best served by signing a striker in a similar mould to Aguero and rotating the two. If anyone can solve this problem, it’s Guardiola.
Depay’s first season in England hasn’t been smooth sailing, but there are signs he’s starting to find his feet at Old Trafford. It will be very interesting to see how he performs under a new manager, because LVG is clearly not the man to get the best out of the young Dutchman.