Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Sunday, September 22, 2013; 15:00 hours GMT
After United’s drab draw with Chelsea, David Moyes faces another big test in the Premier League when he takes his Manchester United team to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Both Manchester clubs are under new managers and Sunday’s game will decide who gets the first bragging rights in the Battle for Manchester. Both Manuel Pellegrini and David Moyes have had similar results in their first games at their current clubs with two wins, one loss and one draw. Moyes will hope that track record improves and comes close to his record as an Everton manager at the Etihad where he has won on four of his last six visits as Toffees manager.
The mood in the United dressing room will be upbeat after they beat Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 in the Champions League on Tuesday at the back of Moyes’s first win at Old Trafford over Crystal Palace in the Premier League. Manchester City too come into this game confident after their exploits in Europe’s elite club competition.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Pellegrini might name an unchanged eleven from City’s win over Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League with skipper Vincent Kompany back in contention after recovering from injury. City are likely to start with an attacking front two of Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko with new boys Negredo and Jovetic on the bench. Citizen Micah Richards is doubtful to start given he is still hamstrung. Gael Clichy and David Silva could make an appearance after they started training earlier this week. Defender Martin Demichelis is out with a knee injury.
This is the biggest test for Pellegrini in the Premier League so far: Manchester United will be the first team from the top half of the 2012-13 table that Manchester City will face this season. Even against their decided ‘weaker’ oppositions, City have had a underwhelming round of results including a loss to newly promoted Cardiff City and a 0-0 draw against Stoke City. The manger will be under pressure to prove his mettle, and a win against their local rivals will be just the kind of statement they need to remind everyone that this is essentially the same team that won the 2011-12 Premier League season. That being said, Pellegrini is not one to tweak his starting 11 more than necessary, and can be counted on to continue with his 4-2-3-1. Samir Nasri (or David Silva, if he starts in the left attacking midfield role) and left-back Kolarov will need to keep an eye on the excellent Antonio Valencia, who has been one of United’s best players in recent games. Aguero and Dzeko need to start bringing in the goals soon (both have a solitary goal each so far in the League), otherwise they might lose their place to new boys Negredo and Jovetic. The pacey Jesus Navas will be a key player, as he definitely has the capability to exploit the aging Patrice Evra.
Probable Starting Line Up [4-4-2]: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov; Navas, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri; Aguero, Dzeko
Shinji Kagawa started the game against Leverkusen and Moyes must ponder whether he wants to tinker with a winning combination. He could be replaced by Nani, in whom Moyes has placed his trust, hoping this would inspire the Portuguese to finally reach his potential. Suspended from Europe in the tie against Leverkusen, Nani is back in the reckoning for a start against City. A revitalized Wayne Rooney will be the key player for the Red Devils and will hope to repeat his exploits from the Manchester derby in 2010 when he scored a wonder goal to help United win the game. Chris Smalling is set to retain his place at right back since Phil Jones and Rafael are unfit for the game. They are joined on the sidelines by Danny Welbeck , though Ashley Young will be pushing for a start.
The result of this match could largely depend on whether the Rooney-van Persie pairing works better than the Aguero-Dzeko one. Both managers are hardly advocates of tiki-taka football; both tend to take a somewhat cautious approach and rely heavily on the front-men to bury the ball into the net. Crosses being floated into the box will be a common sight, and the finishers need to take advantage. United have an added aerial threat in the form of Marouane Fellaini; while he will be played in Central Midfield, he is known for bulldozing runs into the opposing 18-yard box (a common sight in his Everton days). Unfortunately, this could open up space for both Nasri, who loves to cut inside, and Toure, who loves maruading forward runs as much as Fellaini.
Probable Starting Line Up [4-2-3-1]: De Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fellaini; Valencia, Nani, Rooney; Van Persie
- Ashley Young has the highest number of penalties won since his debut in 2006 with 12 penalties.
- The highest number of passes for United have been made by Michael Carrick (282), while City’s highest has been Yaya Toure with 347.
- Wayne Rooney has had a hand in or scored 40 goals in his last 44 Premier League appearances.
Player To Watch Out For
Rooney has been a new player since Moyes took over and had a cracking game against Leverkusen with two goals and an assist. He should be the man to inspire United against their cross town rivals and would be looking to repeat his exploits for the Red Devils from his past Manchester derby experiences.
Manchester City 1-2 Manchester United
Both teams have excellent players on their squad sheets, and both managers have a point to prove at their new clubs, as neither have really set the League on fire with their performances. But home advantage may just be enough to edge the game here, and Manuel Pellegrini can get the fans’ full confidence.