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United vs City – a comparison from top to bottom

September 12, 2016 Tags: , , , Opinion 8 comments
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Derby week is done, with round one taken by United’s noisy neighbours as the world’s gaze focused on Manchester for the season’s most anticipated match. Manchester City won a tough battle 2-1, with an electric opening period enough to secure Pep Guardiola victory at Old Trafford.

It was tough to predict the outcome, based on what many thought likely to be a cagey affair. That premise was thrown out the window as both managers went all out to get the win that could be pivotal in this season’s title race. The Blues have taken an early advantage and a three point lead.

So with all now said and done in the first battle of the new era, how do the squads compare after around £300 million was spent in summer investment and improvement? Rant takes a look through each team’s best 22 and their managers:

Manager – Jose Mourinho & Pep Guardiola

On initial thought it is difficult to pick between these two. The head to head record is the Spaniard’s, with the City boss now having won eight of the seventeen matches and Mourinho just three. There’s no arguing that Guardiola has the wood on Mourinho on the pitch at present, although both can claim to be among the most successful managers of the modern era.

Each has begun a huge rebuilding project at his new club, and both Guardiola and Mourinho can be pleased with the work their clubs put into summer rebuilding. Saturday offered the first preview as to how far along both teams are.

Verdict – there is no splitting these two, both clubs have snagged themselves A+ managers. The personal battle is one of the most fascinating parts of the rivalry and narrative that will drive this story. United 1 – 1 City.


Goalkeeper

David De Gea – one of the world’s best ‘keepers and, arguably, the premier shot stopper. Such is De Gea’s progress that he may be the best all around ‘keeper on the planet, taking Manuel Neuer’s title. Regardless, he is the best in this selection.

Sergio Romero – Romero might be the starting keeper for his native Argentina, but he is a flawed backup goalkeeper for United. It’ll be interesting if Sam Johnstone can supersede the former Monaco player in the pecking order this season.

Claudio Bravo – he might have suffered a shocking debut despite Guardiola’s post-match praise, but De Gea had the same adjustment problems. The Chilean’s best is yet to come, although he won’t enjoy the significant backlash to a disastrous opener.

Willy Caballero – Caballero might have started the season in goal, but it was a mere tactic to ensure Hart headed out the exit. Make no mistake, the Argentine is a backup no better than his compatriot Romero.

Verdict – De Gea win this by a distance. Bravo is excellent, but De Gea is world class. United 2 -1 City.


Full Back

Antonio Valencia – the Ecuadorian is a man changed this season, and has been reborn with a more attacking role under Mourinho. Valencia is still weak defensively, but he’s earned his spot in United’s first XI.

Antonio Valencia

Bacary Sagna – got off to a tough start at the Etihad, but has slowly pushed ahead of Pablo Zabaleta in the pecking order. City can boast one of the best right back rotations, not only in England, but the whole of Europe.

Matteo Darmian – the Italian has struggled in English football after an impressive start, with his lack of attacking nous and weak crossing ability holding back his excellent defending. Darmian faces an important period to save his United career.

Pablo Zabaleta – one of the more established leaders and long-term City members has seen his influence fade in recent times, with Sagna stealing Zabaleta’s  spot. Regardless, the Argentine is the best back-up Guardiola could ask for.

Luke Shaw – the Englishman will be determined to recapture the hot start he got off to last campaign as he returns from injury. Named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2014, the player seems not far away from that form and is outstanding both going forward and in defence.

Aleksandar Kolarov – the polarising full-back was linked with a departure this summer, but has kept a place in the first team thus far. Kolarov’s left foot is a serious weapon, although there is no guarantee he will remain in Guardiola’s plans going forward.

Marcos Rojo – surprisingly Rojo was not sold at the end of the transfer window. Perhaps Mourinho has offered the former Sporting player a chance to save his Old Trafford career, though the chances seem slim.

Gael Clichy – the Frenchman has been in the Premier League for 13 seasons, and is still an excellent defender. Consistency is sometimes is an issue, but he was one of Manuel Pellegrini’s most reliable disciples last season.

Verdict – City edge this, with some of the best depth at right-back on the continent. United’s seems to be in transition, with neither right-sided player a long-term option. Shaw is certainly the best left back in the group. United 2 – 2 City.


Central Defence

Eric Bailly – what a stunning start the Ivorian has enjoyed at Old Trafford, with rave reviews fully deserved. Bailly kept himself out of trouble on Saturday, but his error for City’s opening goal was a sign that he’s still not the finished article.

Vincent Kompany – the inspirational City skipper just can’t stay fit. As well as City has started, the Blues are a whole other animal when they the Belgian leads the defence. A world class defender who just doesn’t play enough.

Daley Blind – not a central defender by trade, his lack of pace and height can be an issue but his IQ is so high that it doesn’t seem to matter. Blind is superbly intelligent passer and footballer, although he was certainly at fault both goals on Saturday, however.

Daley Blind

John Stones – another player reborn under Guardiola, the Englishman looks so much more impressive in a team with defensive structure. Stones’ skilful passing is a welcome addition to City’s back four. A supreme talent, excellent in City’s win at Old Trafford.

Chris Smalling –  unfortunate to be benched thanks to the suspension which ended last season early. It remains to be seen whether he can force his way back into the team. A very good defender regardless.

Nicolas Otamendi – what a luxury to hold such a superb player, though a little rash, as a third choice central defender. Otamendi has started well under Guardiola and now appears to be fully adjusted to English Football. Also a good partner for Stones.

Timofey Fosu-Mensah – an incredible talent, and Mourinho has made it clear that he is an important part of his plans. Many United supporters will look for talented youngster playing more when rotation becomes necessary.

Jason Denayer – it seemed as though Denayer would leave the club permanently this summer. Although talented, he faces a battle for his future at City. If anyone get the most of him though, it is Guardiola.

Verdict – City win this battle, with more top-shelf quality prevalent. Mourinho is probably another defender away from completing his ideal central defensive partership. Bailly’s promise means Mourinho is off to a good start in the defensive rebuild. United 2 – 3 City.


Midfield

Paul Pogba – the outstanding midfielder in this group – a do it all player with a unique ability to cover multiple positions or roles. Pogba’s impact on his first derby will be heavily discussed, with Mourinho needing to find the correct role for him in the team.

İlkay Gündoğan – the German was one of the summer’s best bargains, although his recovery from injury has been a frustrating one. Gündoğan’s quality is not in doubt, but question marks hang on his long term health.

Morgan Schneiderlin – many supporters wondered how important the Frenchman is to Mourinho’s plans. Schneiderlin’s more of a box to box player than a defensive midfielder – the role is now filled by Pogba.

Fernandinho – one of the most underrated midfielders in the country and heading into his last year of his City contract. The Brazilian will be keen to impress Guardiola and, so far, has shown the Catalan that he’s a crucial part of the new and improved City.

Marouane Fellaini – the towering Belgian has survived the summer cull and become a bona-fide first team player this season. Fellaini has earned the spot, but there will be a little bit more required to win over the fans whom he lost in years gone by.

Marouane Fellaini

Yaya Toure – arguably City’s greatest ever player is now the club’s biggest outcast. It is certainly his last season at the Etihad. To some City fans he’s a mercenary, mostly thanks to his agent; to others he’s a disrespected hero. There is too much quality to count the Ivorian out of City’s season.

Ander Herrera – Herrera lurks as an intriguing option alongside Pogba in a formation where a big, bustling defensive midfielder is not required. The Spaniard’s distribution and work rate is excellent, and Saturday’s performance shows that it might be time he played more games.

David Silva – one of the best players in England and an absolute magician with the ball, which appears stuck to his feet until it is sling-shot to a colleague. A superb playmaker.

Juan Mata – is it disrespectful to say that Mata is a poor man’s Silva with better goalscoring nous? It seems an apt comparison. Though there is a sense that Mata is not entirely secure at Old Trafford, he has evolved into a player that Mourinho can use. His future is likely in Manchester.

Kevin De Bruyne – it seems utterly bizarre that a player that cost more than £50 million prove to be a bargain, but that’s a fair assessment of the Belgian. De Bruyne is an excellent goalscorer and even better creator, he’s close to being City’s best player already.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – the reigning Bundesliga player of the year will hope that an MRI comes back clear after a tough first start at United. The Armenian wizard was not quite match ready against City, but must be keen to prove himself shortly.

Fabian Delph – it was originally thought the Englishman was signed simply to meet home-grown quotas, but Delph is working hard to prove the doubters wrong. Injuries have slowed his impact, but Delph seems to be part of Guardiola’s plans.

Michael Carrick – the club’s elder statesman is heading towards retirement. It remains to be seen how much he will play this season, but his experience and ability is certainly of use. Carrick doesn’t quite have the pace to play every match.

Fernando – though limited, the player seems to have a useful role under Guardiola. He will likely be Fernandinho’s backup this season, and may not play much when Gündoğan returns to full fitness.

Jesse Lingard – the winger appears to be putting the pieces together after a mixed campaign last season. If he can improve his technical ability, and he is showing signs of doing so, then he will have all the tools to become a crucial part of Mourinho’s United.

Jesus Navas – a truly bizarre and sometimes terrible footballer. While he provides width, it’s hard to believe the Spaniard will play a crucial role in the modern City squad.

Verdict – Pogba is the top-shelf quality, but City’s overall depth is best. Each side has a vast array of expensively assembled riches, though there is a lot of upside to the talent United has at it’s disposal. United 3 – 4 City


Attack

Zlatan Ibrahimović – the Swede has already been everything fans hoped for. Arrogance, class and the physical presence to bring in those around him. Though he did not enjoy a perfect derby debut, the Swede scored a memorable goal.

Sergio Aguero – a world-class striker of the highest calibre. Injuries have kept Aguero from entering the top echelon of footballers on the planet, but Aguero is the Premier League’s best striker.

Marcus Rashford – the Englishman is taking the Premier League by storm. Rashford’s goalscoring exploits have made the youngster the talk of Manchester, and the call for him to start grows with each impressive performance.

Marcus Rashford

Kelechi Iheanacho – Iheanacho has started his City career very well and capped off a start in the derby with a goal. An immensely talented forward and his ‘rivalry’ with Rashford will be fascinating.

Anthony Martial – while the Frenchman has started the campaign slowly, he is still one of the best players in the United squad. Martial’s off-the-field issues persist, and there appears to be a Euro 2016 hangover. Needs to return to form to ensure a place in Mourinho’s team.

Raheem Sterling – Sterling is the polar opposite to Martial. The former Liverpool forward started his career in Manchester horribly, but has enjoyed a superb start to this campaign. With performances that finally justify a huge fee, Sterling now looks like the player many believed him to be.

Wayne Rooney – the elephant in United’s squad. While still possessing skill and the off brilliant moment, he appears to be a square peg in a round hole. Rooney has a lot of work to do to justify his ongoing place.

Nolito – has started his career in Manchester swimmingly, with goals and a nice fit with his teammates. The Spaniard is a well priced signing that could soon prove to be a bargain. Very much a Pep-type player.

Memphis – the Dutchman is a polarising footballer. While  undoubtedly talented, Memphis hasn’t enjoyed too many breaks since making a big-money move from PSV. With opportunities that are more likely to come up when Mourinho starts to rotate his side, Memphis will have to wait to show off the talent that made him one of Europe’s best young players.

Leroy Sané – although expensive, Sané is another brilliant City signing. This is the premium you pay for Europe’s best talents and seems bound to be a huge success in England.

Verdict – this one is a dead heat, although Aguero’s silly suspension should have offered United an attacking edge on Saturday. City’s tactical variety is an asset. United 4 – 5 City


Overall City’s squad just edges ahead of United’s, and this is why many view the Blues as favourites for the title. United is still a work in progress in some areas, with a few transitional players in certain positions.

United headed into the biggest game of the season fully expecting three points. Mourinho didn’t get it. It was the first of what is likely to be many battles in the new era. City struck the first blow.

8 comments

NazManUnited - September 12, 2016 Reply

@AdamJosephSport The Lumps v Nimbles

NazManUnited - September 12, 2016 Reply

@AdamJosephSport if Mata, Herrera & Rashford started MUFC would of matches city for skill. Rooney & Fellaini are too slow

Rich - September 12, 2016 Reply

Imagine being told two years ago that Fellaini would be starting and Bastian Scweinsteiger would be training with the under-25s.

Fusilli Jerry - September 12, 2016 Reply

The comparison that stuck out most for me was Guardiola’s post-match public praise for Bravo’s supposed show of character on Saturday, versus Mourinho’s post-match public criticism of United players. Both motivated by self-interest/self-preservation, but one likely to inspire newly heightened levels of confidence, motivation, and performance amongst his troops; the other alarmingly redolent of Chelsea last season.

Mourinho is fully entitled to make selection and tactical errors and to lose six pointers in the course of shaping this team, but if he hasn’t learnt anything from last season, and is more that manager than the earlier version for whom Porto, noughties Chelsea, and Inter players walked through walls, then we need to worry. Not because it’s unseemly; because it doesn’t actually work.

Marco - September 13, 2016 Reply

Yes, but everybody who watched the game knew that Bravo only lacked a red nose and massive pair of shoes. People – and I’m not saying you, fawn over Guardiola and hang on his every word like it’s wisdom from on high. Joes’s comments were mild, at best, and I think his real criticism was reserved for that arse Clattenburg who always has to be the star of the show. Dunno about you, but I’m getting a bit tired of these celebrity refs. Men like Riger Kirkpatrick, Jack Taylor, and Clive Thomas would largely be anonymous during games, even big games, and wouldn’t try to engage with the crowd and the TV audience like Clattenburg.

It’s four games in and Mourinho’s first defeat. It was a big game and maybe he didn’t handle it with aplomb. But I don’t think this is a repeat of what happened at Chelsea, nor do I think his players will down tools and play abysmally just to spite him as they did there. He said, in a fairly benign way, what the supporters were saying.

I was on another United site earlier and the amount of arse-licking that was going on about Pep made me wonder if I’d wandered into Blue Moon by mistake. As far as I’m concerned, Guardiola is a blue bastard, just like Malcolm Allison was, and John Bond, and Howard Kendall. And as long as he manages City, that’s what he’ll always be.

Jamie - September 13, 2016 Reply

Well said, Jerry. I agree completely.

Francis Ebre - September 13, 2016 Reply

When you fail, take responsibilities, don’t shift blames. Encourage the players. Praise them, its the players that does the playing. I hate it completely when this old maggot is showing up again. I pray it won’t eat him up like in chelsea and madrid.
Praise the workers, encourage your team, its their victory and loses, it pains them more than you. Don’t make them feel there are working for your fame. Give them sence of belongings. If not for the early mistake, the derby would have been a real test of power. There is always another chance to prove it. Great united.

subterranean steve - September 16, 2016 Reply

Moving on from the City game to the one in Rotterdam.

What is it about the notion of ‘playing with intensity’ or even ‘starting on the front foot’, that only eighteen year old Marcus Rashford appears to understand?

Over to you, Mr Jose van Gaal.

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