Premier League preview: Manchester United vs. Manchester City
- Both sides a perfect 3-for-3 to start the season
- United unbeaten in last three Manchester derbies
- Mourinho, Guardiola renew personal rivalry
By the time much of America wakes up Saturday morning, one of (if not both) Manchester United and Manchester City will no longer boast a perfect start to the 2016-17 Premier League season. Saturday’s showdown at Old Trafford (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) will see managers Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola renew their bitter rivalry which dates back to time spent at the helms of Inter Milan and Real Madrid, and Barcelona, respectively.
In 16 all-time meetings (across five difference competitions), Guradiola has gotten the better of Mourinho in nearly half of them — 7 — having been bested by the Portuguese just three times, with the two men sharing the plaudits in the other six. They met four times while Mourinho was the manager of Inter Milan; Guardiola won twice, lost once, and drew once. In 11 clashes on the grandest stage of them all, El Clasico, Guardiola came out victorious on five occasions, losing just twice, and drawing the other four. Advantage: Guardiola.
Mourinho’s greatest lineup dilemma has been thrust upon him in recent days and weeks, but is one most managers would surely welcome: Marcus Rashford’s meteoric rise from youth academy product to budding superstar shows no sign of slowing in the early days of 2016-17. So much so, the 18-year-old could force his way into the starting 11 at the expense of 20-year-old Anthony Martial, the most expensive teenage signing in the history of the sport. It was Rashford’s 91st-minute winner that propelled the Red Devils to victory over Hull City two weeks ago, setting up Saturday’s battle of the unblemished.
Across the way, City will be without star striker Sergio Aguero, who was handed a three-game suspension, which was upheld on appeal, for elbowing West Ham United defender Winston Reid in the neck two weeks ago. 19-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho, who is yet to find the back of the net in PL play despite a dynamic start to the season, figures to start in Aguero’s place.
INJURIES: Man United — QUESTIONABLE: Luke Shaw (calf), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (thigh) | Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (suspension); RETURNING: Vincent Kompany (groin), Bacary Sagna (hamstring)
What they’re saying
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, on his admiration of Mourinho: “Mourinho is a mastermind. He knows everything about the game. I do not have many regrets, but I do regret that I did not get to play under Mourinho for longer. When the opportunity came again for him to be my coach at United it was an easy decision. Who wouldn’t want to be coached by him?”
Kevin De Bruyne, on life under Guardiola: “We want to try and dominate the game but in England you will never do that for a full 90 minutes. We try to do that. It’s very positive the way we play. People see a lot of differences, and we are doing really well at the moment. He is concerned about everything, every detail and you have to be on the edge as a player. If the manager asks for something on or off the pitch, you just need to adjust to what he wants.”
Anything and everything you could possibly point to as an advantage (or disadvantage) for one side — new manager, significant amount of turnover in the squad, strong start to the season, etc., — is also true of the other side. Aguero’s absence won’t be felt as much as some City supporters might fear — Iheanacho is a spectacular talent — and the defense will do its part to earn a 1-1 draw that closely resembles victory.