The new season is almost upon us, and for both Manchester clubs the target is simple – win the Premier League.
After Pep Guardiola’s centurions ran away with the title last season, Jose Mourinho will be planning to overhaul his counterpart as he did with Real Madrid in 2012 – a year after he watched Guardiola win La Liga with Barcelona.
The core of each squad remains the same as last season, as neither Mourinho nor Guardiola have made significant moves to bolster their squads in the same way they have done in the past couple of summers.
Nevertheless, there will inevitably be players this season that will become part of the managers’ first team plans that were not a part of them last season.
Here, MM takes a look at five City/United players to watch ahead of next season.
5. Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)
After a promising start to his City career, Mendy picked up a serious ACL injury at the end of September 2017 which kept him out of action for most of the season.
Although he returned in time to travel to the World Cup with eventual champions France, he only managed a brief 10-minute cameo in Les Bleus’ last group game against Denmark.
Why always me
— Benjamin Mendy (@benmendy23) August 9, 2018
Much was expected of Mendy when City splashed out £49million for his services last summer following his impressive form for AS Monaco in 2016/17.
Although unorthodox full-backs Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko filled the left-back slot to a good standard for the Citizens last season, Mendy’s return to full fitness will certainly give the City camp a boost.
We all know that Guardiola likes his full-backs to advance, and if Mendy was to display the same form he displayed two seasons ago then he could give his side another dimension down the left flank both in defence and in attack.
4. Fred (Manchester United)
He may not have played for Brazil in Russia, but after he put in a good shift for 68 minutes in United’s 2-1 pre-season friendly win over Real Madrid, United fans found reason to be excited.
Not much has happened in the transfer market at Old Trafford this summer, but the £52million signing of Fred represents the most significant piece of business the Red Devils have done.
Fred was linked strongly with City after performing well for Shakhtar against them in last season’s Champions League group stage games, but next season he will wear the red of United as he becomes the latest of many Brazilians to play in the north-west.
— Fred Rodrigues (@Fred08oficial) August 2, 2018
His slick passing, high energy and link play between the midfield and forward players will add much needed quality to United’s midfield – an area they were frequently short in last year.
Now that Michael Carrick has retired and other midfielders are reporting back late from the World Cup, the start of this season will provide the chance for Fred to nail down his place in Mourinho’s starting XI.
3. Andreas Pereira (Manchester United)
Fred won’t be the only significant addition to United’s midfield this summer.
Although Pereira has been at United since 2011 in the youth academy, he has only made five Premier League appearances for the club as he was left frustrated by his lack of playing time under Louis van Gaal.
Since Mourinho’s arrival, though, he has been sent out on loan spells to La Liga where he impressed at both Granada and Valencia – helping the latter to qualify for the Champions League.
Pereira has been perhaps United’s stand out player in pre-season, and he is set to feature heavily for the club in the upcoming year.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 18, 2018
At just 22 years of age and a bright future ahead of him, the Belgian-born Brazil international has plenty of time to salvage his career at the top level and United is the right place for him.
Comfortable as a deep-lying play-maker, as a number ten or operating from a wide area, Pereira’s versatility and quality on the ball could mean he turns out to be like a new signing for the club.
2. Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Every English football fan is waiting to catch their first real glimpse of Foden in the Premier League.
After representing England at the U17 World Cup in India last year, Foden scooped up the Golden Ball award, awarded to the best player at the tournament – previous winners of the award include Cesc Fabregas and Toni Kroos.
— Phil Foden (@PhilFoden) August 5, 2018
Foden starred in England’s tournament winning team alongside Angel Gomes of United. While Gomes’ chance may not come at Old Trafford just yet, Foden is on the fringes of the first team at City and his chance to impress Guardiola looks to be just around the corner.
Foden is just 18 and was born at the start of the millennium, but he’s young and hungry to impress and is targeting becoming a big part of both City’s squad and England’s national pool in the coming years.
This season could well be his breakthrough, and should Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva be ruled out, Foden may be presented with a chance to shine.
1. Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Well, well, well. After two years of debating his best position and questioning whether United were in their right minds to splash out £90 million on him, we could now be set to see the very best of Pogba.
He started the last campaign off on fire, but from there on his season was stop-start due to injury which resulted in a dip in form when he returned towards the business end of the season.
This put his World Cup starting place in jeopardy, but France manager Didier Deschamps made no mistake in not just selecting Pogba, but making him perhaps the most important player in his team set-up.
— Paul Pogba (@paulpogba) July 22, 2018
Playing alongside N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi, Pogba excelled in all of his side’s knockout games and delivered when it really mattered. He stepped up to the plate like a true leader.
This is something he hasn’t yet done at United, but the World Cup looks to have matured him and he is now at the right stage of his career to elevate his game to the next level.
If he can translate his international form to club level, United’s chances of winning the Premier League will increase.
Image courtesy of Man City via YouTube, with thanks.