As the international break closes to an end, Premier League football returns to the screens of millions across the world. The first game to return to brings a must-watch with an exciting derby-day clash between English heavyweights, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side finds themselves sitting in 2nd place after seven games, just one point behind an inform Arsenal team. Still relatively new manager Erik ten Hag has his Manchester United team in 5th place in the table – five points behind their neighbours in blue.
It may seem unusual to consider Man City as the team who isn’t topping the league table although to say that they have had a ‘poor’ start to the season is far from fair. Guardiola’s team are yet to lose a game this season and has scored more goals than any other side in the league, with an impressive twenty-three goals. For Man Utd, it has not quite been the start that Ten Hag would’ve wanted for his team. The Red Devils started their campaign with back-to-back defeats versus Brighton and Brentford, conceding a shocking six goals between both games. However, it appears as if the side has finally grabbed a hold of the steering wheel and has found themselves in a good run of form – winning all their last four games since their early losses. They now see themselves playing a mammoth game against their rivals in blue.
When & Where?
Date: 2nd October 2022.
Venue: Etihad Stadium.
Time: 14:00 BST.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistant referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett.
Fourth official: David Coote.
VAR: Paul Tierney.
Assistant VAR: Adrian Holmes.
Manchester City’s John Stones appears to be unable to play in the derby, following a hamstring injury during the international break with England. The defender will no doubt be a miss for Man City although summer signing Manuel Akanji looks to be a decent signing for Guardiola and will be expected to slot into defence. Fellow teammate and central defender, Aymeric Laporte, is also reportedly close to being back into action for the Sky Blues and looks to have almost fully recovered from a knee injury. Guardiola’s new midfield signing, Kalvin Phillips, is expected to miss out on his first Manchester derby as it has recently been announced that the Englishman will undergo surgery on his shoulder.
For Manchester United, both Anthony Martial and September’s Player of the Month, Marcus Rashford, are likely to miss out on the blockbuster clash, despite Erik ten Hag announcing that the pair have returned to training. Man United captain, Harry Maguire, has also been confirmed to miss the game after he was seen limping following England’s last UEFA Nations League game. The only other injury doubt for United is Donny van de Beek, who has reportedly suffered a minor injury although it is unlikely that the Dutchman would’ve featured in the first team.
As mentioned previously, Manchester City has scored the greatest number of goals in the league so far and their stacked depth of attackers will likely mean that their goalscoring threat will continue to menace the Manchester United defence. Premier League top goal scorer, Erling Haaland, has been at the face of the dynasty and will likely be desperate for his name to be featured on the score sheet. The Norwegian striker has already scored an incredible eleven goals in just seven games for Man City.
Guardiola’s team have remained fluid and flexible, despite the change from a false-nine to an out-and-out forward that primarily scores goals and is a focal point to build upon. For Man City, this change hasn’t sacrificed the forward-thinking, positive football instilled by Guardiola as Haaland has proven that he is more than capable of dropping deeper to assist in build-up play, whilst still being an incredible threat in the opposition box. As usual, Guardiola’s 4-3-3 will undoubtedly involve all players consistently roaming around the areas of the pitch; we often see the wingers maintain the with of the pitch that can allow creative midfielders such as Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva etc. to all occupy dangerous spaces within the narrow areas of the pitch. This also comes with technical players, such as Joao Cancelo, enabled to push forwards and create another line of attack, whilst players like Rodri, Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte and Rúben Dias all have world-class defensive capabilities to provide the perfect shield to such dangerous attacking build-up play.
Erik ten Hag has largely changed the way that Manchester United execute their gameplans. Following on from their opening two losses, Man Utd are often the team who has less possession of the ball than their opponents as they often rely on counterattacking with plenty of pace on the front line. Interestingly, the previous top goal scorer of the side in the league from last season, Cristiano Ronaldo, has been relegated to the bench for almost all of the games for Man United this season. It is a testament to the new style of pressing, energetic football that Ten Hag is trying to instil into his new side, and it proves that the Dutchman is not afraid to make big calls. United have typically lined up in a 4-2-3-1 shape this season and new signing, Christian Eriksen, has been a huge signing for the Red Devils – often being deployed as a deep-lying playmaker, rather than an attacking midfielder. Fellow new signings, Casemiro and Antony, have yet to establish themselves fully into the side although defenders Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martínez have proven to be big improvements defensively.
We can likely expect to see Manchester City dominating possession of the ball, with Manchester United sitting back and looking for the perfect moment to release a venomous attack through the lines.
The twenty-two-year-old will undoubtedly be the main man to watch in the clash of red and blue. It has almost looked impossible to stop the goalscoring threat of Haaland and the Manchester United central defenders will face their most difficult test yet against the Norwegian.
Guardiola’s new number nine is the perfect build for any forward. A diverse skillset of incredible pace, strength, finishing, build-up play, movement, and all-around dominance of the forward line has meant that Haaland has taken the Premier League by storm and will likely continue to do so as he remains the odds-on favourite for the Golden Boot.
Manchester United have seen improvements all across the pitch from last season’s nightmare although the player that will likely be a huge asset against Manchester City is midfielder, Christian Eriksen. Following on from a miraculous return to football last season after suffering cardiac arrest during the Euros campaign, Eriksen has added a much-needed touch of class to Ten Hag’s midfield.
The Danish playmaker has changed his role slightly and remains as the player who first receives the ball from the defence and last touches the ball before it is spread out to the attacker. Eriksen’s quality for Tottenham Hotspur, and briefly at Brentford, has proven that the raw passing ability and understanding of the game has been big for Man Utd. We can expect Eriksen to be at the heart of the counterattack with relentless over-the-top pinged balls for the front line.
Manchester City predicted lineup vs Manchester United: Ederson, Cancelo, Dias, Akanji, Walker, Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne, Grealish, Haaland, Foden.
Manchester United predicted lineup vs Manchester City: De Gea, Malacia, Martínez, Varane, Dalot, McTominay, Sancho, Fernandes, Antony, Elanga.