Both managers will be looking to come away with all three points from the Manchester Derby as City and United face off in a 4th vs 5th battle
Manchester City and United are both having lackluster seasons domestically. City is ahead of their rivals by just one point, but are only in 4th in the league table. Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho will be fighting hard this match, as it could mean the difference between Champions League and Europa League football.
United are coming off a solid 2-0 win over the weekend against Burnley. City, on the other hand, just lost a disappointing FA Cup semi-final to Arsenal in extra time 2-1. The extra football they played could be a factor, but in a match of this caliber, most players will be more than ready and fired up to play. The match is sure to be a tightly contested affair, but these matchups could be the difference between a draw and a win for either side.
1. Kompany vs Bailly
Stricken by injury, Manchester United are forced to start with Bailly and Blind as their two central defenders. Their only real substitute will be Fosu-Mensah, who is just 18 years old. This uncertainty in the backline will be a big target for Guardiola and Manchester City. Aguero could have a field day if the backline does not stay organized.
Apart from the obvious attackers exploiting the United defense, though, is the marking of defenders on corners. Belgian defender Vincent Kompany is a menace on set pieces for Manchester City. His vertical and heading power make him the biggest threat that United will have to deal with on corners. His recent goal against Southampton only further proves his ability to convert on chances.
If United are to stay in this game, they will need to mark Kompany deliberately on all set pieces and corners. That task will most likely be given to Bailly, as he is much taller and more powerful than Blind is in the air. With Kompany being taller and much more experienced, the battle will be crucial for United to win.
2. Pogba vs De Bruyne
Through the center of the pitch, United will need to be wary of Kevin De Bruyne. The young Belgian leads the Premier League in assists and is having a fantastic season overall. Cutting down his time on the ball will greatly reduce the amount of chances that City creates throughout the match.
To counter the raw ability De Bruyne possesses, United will need Paul Pogba to step up in a big way. The Frenchman has been in a bit of a statistical slump. He has not scored since the last week in January, and his last assist was in mid February against Blackburn. The enormous price tag still comes up every time his name is mentioned, with each passing week creating more conversation around his impact.
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Pogba often plays a few solid long balls and can body off defenders to hold the ball up. What he seems to be lacking is the killer shot or pass that results in goals. The overhead kick he nearly scored against Anderlecht received a ton of media attention, but ultimately meant nothing as it did not go in. This sums up his time at United so far, with fans trying to justify his involvement in the team any chance they get.
The matchup between Pogba and De Bruyne may not be a one on one type of matchup, but it will be important nonetheless. Both players are vital assets to their teams’ shape and output overall. Shutting either of them down could be the way to victory, or at least a big boost in the right direction.
3. Rooney vs Mourinho
Wayne Rooney has started just 10 matches for Manchester United in the Premier League. This has been down to the decision of manager Jose Mourinho to start Ibrahimovic, Rashford and even Lingard in front of Rooney. Even with Mata out injured, Mourinho still did not start Rooney, opting for Martial instead.
The lack of playing time this season reflects on his overall output. Rooney has scored just three league goals, and only eight in all competitions. Though he is 31, he still has the skill to play in big matches. Mourinho will have a big decision to make going into the derby of whether to start Rooney or not. An injury to Ibrahimovic leaves a vacancy at striker that Rooney could fill. Recently, though, Mourinho has deployed him as either a playmaker in the middle or more recently out wide.
This decision did pay off against Burnley over the weekend as Rooney grabbed his first Premier League goal since he scored in January against Stoke. This was also his first full 90 minute match since September against Watford. These two factors show just how little of an impact Rooney has had overall on Manchester United’s season this year. It also might explain why he is linked with a move back to his boyhood club of Everton this summer.
There will be a lot of factors going into the decision to play Wayne Rooney against City. The formation, his position and number of minutes all will be taken into account before Mourinho selects whether he plays or not. The decision could likely have been made already, but the fans will not know until about an hour before kickoff on Thursday. No matter the decision, Rooney will be hoping to at least see the field and have his chance to make an impact on the match.