A Manchester Derby is a classic fixture that carries a story-telling purpose and is an exhibition of talent that skyrockets Premier League football’s base value.
Currently on a 21-game unbeaten run across all competitions, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City has established a 14-point lead over bitter rivals Manchester United. The Cityzens are also on a streak of 15 straight Premier League wins, a stark contrast to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, who have drawn six of their last 10 Premier League matches.
While City have a full-fledged team at their disposal, the Red Devils will be without primary custodian David De Gea, midfielder Paul Pogba and striker Edinson Cavani.
To accommodate the best players from the Manchester teams into our combined XI, we have placed players in a 4-1-2-3 formation.
Suppose one has to compare Manchester City’s Ederson and Manchester United’s David De Gea, the obvious answer would be that the Brazilian custodian stands out with a better record between the sticks.
Ederson leads the race for the Golden Glove with 15 clean sheets, and with Dean Henderson confirmed to take De Gea’s place for the Manchester Derby, one ought to keep a close eye on how Ederson continues his spectacular run as the league’s top goalkeeper.
LB: Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw has been one of the most improved players for Manchester United this season, and his performances over the last few game weeks - four assists in his previous six games - earned him the Player of the month award for February.
CB: John Stones
Having been in the shadows in the last two seasons, English defender John Stones has become an irreplaceable player in Pep Guardiola’s matchday playing XI. The 26-year-old has been a part of 10 clean sheets since game week 10 and has contributed three goals in the process.
CB: Ruben Dias
Like Stones, Portuguese center-half Ruben Dias has been a prominent face in City’s matchday squads having played all but one game. With a 63% tackle success rate, Dias has registered 106 recoveries while winning 90 duels and 51 aerial battles. If anything, Guardiola will entrust him to restrict the movements of young winger Mason Greenwood.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been a key component of Manchester United’s gameplay from the right flank, forming a close partnership with Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood. Although his ball distribution is a bit of a concern, the 23-year-old’s quick-paced runs and ability to retract in the defense from offensive gameplay is sure to give City’s left-back major issues.
Without a doubt, Spain’s Rodri is the best player suited for the central defensive midfielder role, given his returns are better than that of the United trio of Scott McTominay, Fred, and Nemanja Matic. Rodri has averaged 81.24 passes per game while registering a tackle success rate of 60%, which is significantly greater than McTominay’s record of 36.57 passes per game and a tackle success rate of 44%.
CM: Kevin de Bruyne
Despite being injured for a large portion of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Kevin de Bruyne has been a significant contributor to Manchester City’s spectacular form. The Belgian, who has made 21 appearances in the English top-flight league this term, has 11 assists so far and aims to get back on the scoresheet once again, having played a role in just one goal since returning from a hamstring injury.
CM: Bruno Fernandes
If one has to pick out Manchester United’s Player of the Season, it has to be Bruno Fernandes. Since his transfer last January, the Portuguese has been a revelation for the Red Devils with 23 goals and 17 assists to his name, and despite enduring a topsy-turvy season, the 26-year-old has stacked 15 goals and 10 assists.
Bruno has one assist in three meetings with Manchester City, and will look to hit his first goal against the runaway leaders.
RW: Riyad Mahrez
Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez has hit form in his last four games, with two goals and two assists, and manager Pep Guardiola expects the 30-year-old to give United’s Luke Shaw a torrid time in the upcoming Manchester Derby.
Blessed with incredible pace and creativity, Riyad Mahrez is tasked to give the hosts an early lead while setting up impressive gameplay in and around the opposition box.
ST: Sergio Aguero
Long-serving striker Sergio Aguero will enter his 14th Manchester Derby in the Premier League, to break Wayne Rooney’s record of 11 derby goals. The Argentine attacker has featured just six times this term, with much of his time out injured and spending the entirety of January in quarantine for testing positive.
With rumors circling that Aguero’s days are numbered at the Etihad Stadium, the 32-year-old will be keen to silence them with a performance that consolidates his status as a Cityzen legend.
LW: Raheem Sterling
In terms of scoring ability, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford are almost on par, but it is the latter who has been slightly better. But, what sets Sterling apart is his consistency in goal contributions.
Raheem Sterling’s versatility in the attacking third is something that will cause trouble for United’s Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, and Pep Guardiola will bank on this tactic to dent the neighbour’s hopes to trim down City’s 14-point lead.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Shaun Botterill