Only Louis van Gaal and Manuel Pellegrini truly know who will start in their crucial clash this weekend, but here’s MM’s analysis of their respective line-ups.
Joe Hart 7/10 vs David De Gea 8/10
Hart struggled to find his peak form last season, but the England No.1 has improved in the last 12 months. Although he has been at fault for several goals conceded by the champions’ this season, he has been one of the Premier Leagues’ finest shot stoppers for a number of years while his counterpart De Gea has only developed into one of the best in the last eight months. However, with Hart’s form still proving to be somewhat inconsistent, De Gea edges this crucial battle.
Pablo Zabaleta 9 vs Rafael da Silva 6
Rafael is simply no match for City’s ever-reliable defender. Zabaleta is one of the best right-backs the league has ever seen and the 29-year-old shows no sign of his skills diminishing. His importance to City’s defence is only eclipsed by Vincent Kompany. Meanwhile, Rafael’s lack of concentration has let United down on too many occasions. He undoubtedly has pace but his decision-making is poor at times. If and when their defence get a major overhaul he will likely be the first one replaced.
Eliaquim Mangala 6 vs Marcos Rojo 7
French centre-back Mangala cost City £32million but has yet to live up to his price tag after seven games at the heart of City’s defence. The powerful defender has struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League so far, and has often relied on Kompany to cover for his mistakes. Rojo was brought into Old Trafford for £16million from Sporting Lisbon after an impressive World Cup with Argentina. Although he has been occasionally shaky, his versatility and pace means you’d rather have Rojo than Mangala.
Vincent Kompany 8 vs Phil Jones 6
Kompany is a City hero. The Belgian captain fantastic has led his team to two Premier League titles since his £6million arrival in 2008 even if he has had a few shaky moments of late. Kompany is still one of the world’s best centre-backs and comfortably surpasses his United counterpart, who was once, remarkably, dubbed as a future England captain. While that could still prove true, the former Blackburn youngster has stagnated over the last few seasons and his place in the United team is far from guaranteed.
Aleksandar Kolarov 7 vs Luke Shaw 6
Kolarov and dead-ball specialist are often uttered in the same breath. If he does start ahead of Clichy then the Serbian will provide a greater attacking threat with the chances created from corners and free-kicks. In Shaw’s case, his performance against Chelsea on Sunday showed he will soon shrug off the price tag which was beginning to become a heavy burden. We all saw what he is capable of at Southampton but he has had little impact since his reported £28 million move.
James Milner 8 vs Ander Herrera 7
Milner is often overshadowed by his more expensive, more exciting compatriots in the City midfield corps, but having been allowed to flourish by Roy Hodgson and now Pellegrini, he has hit a rich vein of form, combining an ability to track and defend wingers with a superb work-rate. Herrera too is known for his ‘engine’, but has coughed and spluttered his way through the first few miles at United, and only really seems to go well when everyone else does.
Yaya Toure 6 vs Marouane Fellaini 7
Toure cannot afford another slack performance and will likely face a rejuvenated Fellaini in the middle of the park. The spotlight will be on the Ivorian who has scored just once in the league this season and has often looked sluggish, a far cry from the man who was pivotal in City’s Premier League triumph last season. So often derided by United fans, Fellaini has been the surprise star of late with a stunning goal against West Brom and an impressive showing against Chelsea. Who comes out stronger will prove decisive in this match.
Fernando 7 vs Daley Blind 7
Van Gaal’s second favourite Dutchman looks like he might be the player United have been crying out for, while Fernando also answers many of City’s prayers. Both provide stability to an otherwise attack-minded midfield, and both are filling a role others have failed to before. Blind’s goal against West Brom will not be the first point he saves for United, and Fernando allows Toure to express himself properly.
David Silva 8 vs Angel Di Maria 9
The major difference between the two left-footed talismen is that Silva fits into a form midfield, while Di Maria is forced to carry a team. Silva reminded everyone exactly how good he can be when he cut inside to score against West Ham with an absolute wonder-goal, and if he fires, few defences can contain him. Di Maria on the other hand is head and shoulders above his team-mates, and if anything is to come for United against City then Angel must be their saviour.
Edin Dzeko 7 vs Robin van Persie 6
Here we have two strikers going in opposite directions. Van Persie was signed to win the league for United and that is exactly what he did in his first year. However he has failed to replicate that form since then; despite grabbing a late equaliser against Chelsea a number of missed chances suggest his best years may be behind him. In contrast, Dzeko’s goals led City to the title last year and he also contributes much more to play than his Dutch counterpart. Both strikers captain their national teams but the Bosnian edges it on current form.
Sergio Aguero 10 vs Wayne Rooney 7
In Aguero, City possess the best out-and-out striker in the Premier League, and possibly the world. When Wayne Rooney burst on to the scene fans moved to the edge of their seat every time he got the ball. Now United’s captain displays a more controlled approach; although Rooney is still capable of magnificent moments, he is not on the same level as Aguero, who has been in sparkling form in the early weeks of this season.
Manuel Pellegrini 6 vs Louis van Gaal 5
It is a case of ‘must do better’ for both managers. Arriving on the back of leading the Netherlands to third place at the World Cup, LVG inspired a wave of optimism at Old Trafford but is yet to live up to the billing. Unlike his United counterpart, Pellegrini hit the ground running in his first season but after a title winning debut season, his City team have struggled to hit the same heights this time around. With City third and United eighth both bosses are underachieving given their expensively assembled squads.
THE FINAL SCORE: Here at MM we expect City to edge out United
Main image courtesy of Apascluto via Flickr with thanks.