The temperature in Manchester is rising as Pep Guardiola’s men get ready to travel downtown to face their illustrious neighbours in one of the most coveted clashes in the history of the English game. Although Liverpool have lost three games in just four matches, they are still twenty-two points clear of second-placed Manchester City so there is no title connotation to the tie but that, in no way, mars the grandeur of the tie.
Manchester United will be short on firepower as both Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire are sidelined for the Red Devils. This match has a history of bringing players from complete oblivion and making them the biggest celebrities in the city. The fans would, therefore, hope someone would rise to the occasion to fill the void. Let’s take a look at the best possible combined eleven among the two Manchester sides.
The 26-year-old Brazilian shot-stopper has been a revelation under Pep Guardiola. In his 24 appearances this season, Ederson has already kept nine clean sheets, two more than De Gea having played four matches less than him. So, he is a clear favourite in the line-up.
However, Ederson has been found wanting when it comes to the Manchester Derby. He has featured in five matches against their city rivals and has conceded seven goals with just one cleansheet to his name. So, Pep would be hoping for a top-notch performance from the Brazilian if they want to win the match.
Aaron Wan Bissaka:
Aaron Wan Bissaka, since joining from Crystal Palace, has given the Manchester United backline some much-needed stability. The 22-year-old is gifted with pace, positional sense and an amazing ability to tackle. He has also improved his attacking side of the game and has provided two assists this season. He has also put in 73 crosses this season. Couple that with 91 tackles with a tackle success rate of 68%, you get one of the best right-back in the PL at the moment.
While Kyle Walker is better than AWB going forward, pitted against Raheem Sterling, Ole would want to see his defensive might on display.
The amount of faith Guardiola places on the veteran Brazilian, no one would question even if he trusts him with his bank details. Fernandinho has single-handedly solved the centre-back crisis this season. The 34-year-old has made a staggering 69 clearances and won 119 duels in 22 matches.
His experience and surreal game reading ability will be required to hold the defence together against the guile and trickery of the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial.
The 25-year-old Swede has finally found his form for the Red Devils. Along with his defensive brilliance, Lindelof can carry the ball forward and pass the ball in between the lines. He has won 74% of the aerial duels in the Premier League this season.
Against the likes of Aguero, amidst the absence of Maguire, Lindelof is definitely the one Ole would bank upon.
Often marred by injuries, the career of Luke Shaw probably never quite hit the heights he would have once expected when he broke onto the scene as a pacey left back at Southampton. The 24-year-old has been a supporting cast player for most of Jose Mourinho’s reign at Old Trafford, but this season his career seems to have been reinvigorated under Solskjaer.
Capable of playing in a back three as well as a back four, Shaw’s versatility and defensive acumen has helped put him back on the England radar for the Euros. Come the Manchester derby, the youngster will hope to put in another good performance and bolster his reputation.
Brought from Atletico Madrid for a record fee, Rodri has certainly done justice to his hefty price tag under Pep, scoring three goals from midfield. With Fernandinho deployed in the defence, the 23-year-old has shown exceptional maturity. He can win duels, break plays, wins 50/50s, almost everything to win the match. He has also the ability to shoot from outside the box, adding another dimension to his game. Apart from breaking games, he also possesses the ability to create plays and pass the ball over the defence.
Kevin De Bruyne:
If there is one player who’s very name can make the opposition team feel weak in their knees, it has to be Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian puppeteer can single-handedly break the backbone of any team. 8 goals, 16 assists and 23 chances created; these figures are enough to take away the sleep of any manager.
After his initial injury scare, KDB is going to go through a fitness test and if rumours are correct, he would play at the Old Trafford. Manchester United fans, feel the chills?
Bruno Fernandes has changed the entire dynamics of Ole’s side since his arrival in December. His creative capability, ability to find pockets of space anywhere on the pitch, eye for the goal and dribbling past defenders make him a threat to almost every team.
Since his arrival, he has played four games, scoring two and assisting two. His partnership with the likes of Fred and McTominay has made the Red Devils look a lot stronger going forward. Since this is his first Manchester Derby, it would certainly be the biggest opportunity for him to announce himself to the fans.
The English youngster has become a lot more matured since his move to Manchester. While before he was often accused of concentrating more on dribbles and having little end product, nowadays, he is one of the biggest threats on the wings. He has worked on his end product and has eleven goals to show for it. He is yet to score against Manchester United going into his 15th appearance against the Reds. He would definitely try to keep Wan Bissaka busy during the game to change the stat.
The Algerian winger was at his lethal best in his Premier League winning season with Leicester City but he has not been any less prolific for the Cityzens. He has created 13 chances and scored eight goals and assisted eight. His ability to dribble past defenders with effortless ease makes him all the more lethal.
While Luke Shaw has grown in confidence and has the confidence of his manager, stopping the Algerian is going to be a difficult task.
The player who can make all the difference in the Derby is the Argentine centre-forward. Sergio Aguero has scored 180 goals for Manchester City in the Premier League, the most by any player for the club. He has not been in his prolific best this season but even then, he has scored 16 goals already and Manchester United are one of his favourite opponents. He has scored eight goals in 10 Premier League derbies during his six and a half years for the club.
Feature Image courtesy: AFP/ Oli Scarff