With the Manchester derby less than 24 hours away, excitement in the city is already palpable as both sides will be looking to get the better of their opposition to consolidate their lead at the top of the table.
The game is billed as a clash between two pragmatists. Jose Mourinho, the chosen one, on the red corner, has not had the best of luck in his last job and was unceremoniously sacked halfway through the 2015/16 season.
Pep Guardiola, his opposite number and arch nemesis, has seen the better of the Portuguese gaffer in the 17 occasions the two have faced off as managers, losing just three times. With a rejuvenated and refurbished squad, the Spaniard will be optimistic going into his first derby in England.
In the build-up to the game, Mourinho was questioned about the availability of his players ahead of what is probably his most important match as United boss. “Everybody is available. there are no injuries and everybody has returned safely and on time for at least one training session,” said the former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 9, 2016
These words may have come as music to the ears of millions of United fans around the globe who were sweating after hearing the injuries picked up by Mkhitaryan, Shaw and Fellaini on international duty.
While the Armenian is yet to make a competitive start for the Red Devils, he has been inspiring with a couple of cameos off the bench to turn the fortunes around for his side. A pacier bet as compared to Juan Mata, Mkhitaryan may be given the nod to start in Saturday’s derby.
Fellaini picked up a slight injury during United’s last game against Hull City which saw him miss Belgium’s match against Spain during the international break. But the industrious midfielder recovered and played 82 minutes in his nation’s next game against Cyprus on Thursday.
Shaw was withdrawn from England’s squad to take on Slovakia, which immediately brought his derby participation in jeopardy. Despite being taken off as a precautionary measure, Shaw may still not be a hundred percent. While Mourinho is upbeat of a full fledged squad at his disposal, risking the the 23-year-old may prove to be a gamble he’d rather avoid taking.
Also, Argentine duo Marcus Rojo and Sergio Romero have only arrived in Manchester on Friday after a strenuous international schedule, and may not be in the matchday squad for the game on Saturday.
Apart from that, United seem to have all their players geared up for the game and Mourinho might even name the same team that took to the field two weeks ago against Hull City.