Bragging rights to stay at the Etihad
The first Manchester derby of the season takes place on Saturday evening at the Etihad Stadium with both sides coming into it in differing form, with matches in Europe coming up in the next week. City are a cool three places and 11 points ahead of their rivals in the table, however compared to their usually extremely high standards they have faltered lately, only picking up eight points from the last available 15. Brazilian benchwarmer so far this season, Gabriel Jesus, grabbed his opportunity with both hands on Wednesday night as the rampant champions thrashed 11th placed Burnley 4-1 at Turf Moor.
Both teams are top of their respective groups in the Champions League and Europa League with little to play for having won consistently at the beginning of the campaigns. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave virtually a whole team of youngsters the chance to express themselves on matchday five, though maybe regrettably as they ended up embarrassingly going down 2-1 to FC Astana in Kazakhstan. The sides travel to Croatia and Holland for their final group stage encounter with the Red Devils needing to avoid defeat to seal top spot in Group L.
Kevin De Bruyne
The Belgian midfield wizard has started to hit a purple patch, capped with what could have been an outstanding match winning volley against Newcastle United at the weekend if Jonjo Shelvey did not cancel it out with a strike of similar ferocity a few minutes later. Should the season peter out for City, we may see players like De Bruyne drop their level looking to reserve their best form for Euro 2020 however the battle is not done yet, with the confidence that enabled Pep Guardiola’s side to comeback and snatch the title from Liverpool’s grasp just last season, they will believe they can make it a hattrick of league titles.
At the forefront of this youthful team is Rashford who is enjoying his best season in front of goal thus far. He scored two in a three game run where all seven goals scored were by an academy graduate, notably came the emergence of left back Brandon Williams, who got the ball rolling as United showed their best form of Solskjaer’s permanent reign in finding the net thrice in seven minutes against Sheffield United. Rashford’s movement and dribbling ability holds the key if the Red Devils can salvage anything from this game.
Guardiola’s men will have too much creativity and experience to accommodate United, and will pick them apart through the match, with bragging rights staying in the blue half of Manchester.