Manchester will be engulfed in action this weekend with two of the most influential and successful managers leading their two teams head to head in an old rivalry turned new.
Pep Guardiola-led Manchester City will have a tough job going to Old Trafford to take on beefed-up Manchester United, but the task does not seem so daunting when you look at the talent on City. When you look at Manchester United’s striking force consisting of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial, it may seem too star-studded to fail against Manchester City’s defensive line. When you look at the matchups, United chances start to look less impressive. We all know Rooney is washed up by now and will be easily neutralized by the midfield and back line of Manchester City. Mata and Martial will have to take on Pablo Zabaleta and Gaël Clichy, two of the most experienced fullbacks in the world right now, and I don’t think either of them will be left on their back defending. That leaves Ibrahimovic, a world-class striker who has the skill to score from literally anywhere on the field. It will ultimately be a test for new signing John Stones, who will hope to anchor the City line at back, if he can contain the powerful Swedish giant.
This Saturday is going to be an epic battle between two of the greatest soccer teams in the world and I believe Manchester United is going to win in a close one. For starters, City’s defense is going to have to try to contain one of the best strikers in the world right now, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ibrahimovic signed with United after playing four seasons with Paris-Saint Germain and has already shown that he can be a superstar with his new team. He’s scored two goals in the first three games of the season. He will also be defended against by Stones, a 22-year-old center back, who I believe will have no problem getting the best of because this will be the biggest test for John Stones on the biggest stage of his life. Whereas, Ibrahimovic has the experience and the proven talent to score goals on the biggest stages. Despite the claims that Wayne Rooney may be a washed up star, he doesn’t look like one so far this season. He is one of only four people to score a goal for Man U so far this season. Plus, with the way Man U is set up, I don’t think he will be neutralized for the entire game. The defense will have to try to contain Mata and Martial, which won’t be an easy task. Also, there will be times in the game where the defense breaks down or a defender loses their man, when that happens I have faith in the United strikers to take advantage of their opportunities like those.
Even after losing Sergio Aguero to a suspension, City have such a deep midfield that they should be able to outperform United. De Bruyne and David Silva are world class players and with the help of Fernandinho they should be able to neutralize even the Manchester United’s new superstar Paul Pogba, who plays alongside Marouane Fellaini. Moving the ball forward-some may say the suspension of Aguero is crushing to City’s chances, although they do not look at the amazing depth in midfield that Manchester City has relied on for years. However, the likely Saturday replacement, 19-year-old Iheanacho, has shown himself to be capable of performing without the Argentinian alongside him, scoring three of his eight goals last season without Aguero. The attacking trio of Iheanacho between wingers Nolito and Raheem Sterling has enough firepower and speed to be able to exploit the slower, less capable defending of Daley Blind and Eric Bailly who will be without their speedy starting right back Antonio Valencia.
When you look at the matchups and tactics of the two teams, the game still looks to be incredibly close no matter what. The final piece the game comes down to is how well Pep Guardiola can game plan and manage against Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Although both are no doubt the best in the world, Guardiola’s history of game planning for huge games such as the Champions’ League shows he has an upper hand in preparing his team and will be able to take a huge win with possible title implications away at Old Trafford.
Manchester United’s defense will make it challenging for Man City to score against them even without Aguero. While Valencia will be sorely missed during this game, it’s not like Blind and Bailly are overmatched. Bailly leads United with the most clearances on the team (16). So based on that fact, I doubt that the United backs will be unable to keep up with Ihenacho and the two other wingers on Man City. You’re also forgetting that United has David De Gea, one of the best goalkeepers in the world right now. He’s also been named United’s Player of the Year three years in a row. Last season, he was one goal away from winning the Premier League Golden Glove, the award given to the best goalkeeper in the premier league. So even if Man City can get past United’s defense, they will have to get past one of the best goalies in the world right now.