The 2013/14 Barclays Premier League has barely begun but already there is a glut of gossip, intrigue and opinion surrounding Manchester’s two arch-rivals.
Both City and United have undergone near-seismic changes during the off-season, so who has won the early battles and who will win the war on derby day, September 22?
The Transfer Window
City displayed a signal of intent with their attack-minded transfers this summer. Negredo and Jovetic are natural goal-scorers and their all-round play is sensational. Few doubted Balotelli’s ability to put the ball in the back of the net, but he was found wanting when it came to build-up play, a problem rectified by these two creative players who should feature heavily on the assists charts. That is not to mention Jesus Navas; the Hispanic Usain Bolt. His trickery and technical style, coupled with his pace will keep many Premier League defenders awake at night. The acquisition of Fernandinho gives City a physical element in midfield that, with the exception of Yaya Toure, they have lacked for some time now. The Brazilian’s direct nature will undoubtedly prove more effective than that of Gareth Barry; the king of the sideways pass, and will contribute to City spending a lot of time in their opposition’s half.
Manchester United’s transfer window could not present a starker contrast. Marouane Fellaini is a complete midfielder who can drive forward, hold the ball up, win aerial battles and make important tackles. But, crucially, he is just one man. And therein lies the problem. United’s team needed strengthening in a few departments and Moyes’ rushed, confused approach to the transfer window not only left United under-resourced, it also heaped embarrassment on the club in a way previously unimaginable under Sir Alex.
City win this round.
Who’s had the best start?
Purely in terms of points City are winning this round too. Six points from three matches is hardly sensational but United’s point tally is even more underwhelming. However, City’s 3-2 loss away at Cardiff and parts of their game against Hull City at the Etihad highlighted defensive frailties that must concern Pellegrini, who watched his defence routinely leave swathes of grass so exposed that it resembled Wilmslow’s Green Belt.
United have looked significantly more assured at the back but have lacked creativity going forward. Against both Chelsea and Liverpool it is a concern that United seemed content to play quite a boring, rigid style and their build-up play appears slower than in previous years.
Who’ll win the derby?
Manchester United. That may appear an odd choice given that City have won the last two rounds but United have to be favourites. They are more organised at the back than Jittery Joe Hart, Leaky Lescott and Co, who are clearly struggling to adapt to Pellegrini’s high line. Whilst Yaya Toure should dominate the midfield and City’s potent attacking force may cause United some problems at times, expect to see Robin Van Persie mercilessly exploiting the chaos in City’s back four.
Image courtesy of MUTV, with thanks.