Five personal battles to decide Manchester derby

Current champions United host prospective new title winners City at Old Trafford tonight.

Manchester United and City meet tonight at Old Trafford, with more than local bragging rights on the line.

The hosts need a morale boost before playing European champions Bayern Munich, and also are in danger of having their mantle as Manchester’s dominant club stripped from them.

The visitors can close the gap on Chelsea and have every chance to wrestle the title away from their bitter rivals this season.

As always, a number of personal battles will play a significant role in deciding the outcome of the game – here are tonight’s top five.

Wayne Rooney vs Vincent Kompany

In Robin van Persie’s absence, Rooney is widely expected to lead the line for the home team, with Juan Mata slotting into the number ten role.

City have been boosted by the return of Kompany from suspension, with the Belgian sure to have his hands full with the in-form England international.

With Rooney United’s driving force in attack, it will be interesting to see if he can have as much of an impact leading the line as he does when he can drop deep to pick up the ball.

Phil Jones vs Alvaro Negredo

United have worries at the back, with a number of first-teamers unavailable. As such, Phil Jones will need to step up and prove he has what it takes to be a leader for club and country.

Negredo has had a sensational first season in England, but has more emphasis on getting goals here without his usual partner in crime Sergio Aguero.

Juan Mata vs Fernandinho

Mata has shown in glimpses what he is capable of since moving to Old Trafford in January, but has been playing out of position – tonight will more than likely see him take centre stage behind Rooney.

The club’s record signing has the responsibility for bringing creativity into a side that has largely been bereft of it this season and can be a matchwinner if afforded time and space.

It will most likely be Fernandinho that will be charged with keeping tabs on the Spaniard, and will need to get his positional sense spot on to shackle the former Chelsea playmaker.

David Silva vs Rafael

Mercurial City playmaker Silva will most likely start on the left and look to drift off the flank and link up with Negredo.

Rafael will face the task of limiting Silva’s influence and needs to decide whether to follow the attacking midfielder in-field or leave him to someone else.

Yaya Toure vs Maroune Fellaini

The biggest test over the course of a season for Premier League midfielders is taking on Yaya Toure, whose physicality, boundless energy and ability makes him the best the English top flight has to offer.

United’s central midfield has been their Achilles heel this term and it may well be down to Marouane Fellaini to go toe-to-toe with the Ivorian.

Many will see this as a mismatch, however it could well be a way for the Belgian to finally win over the home faithful if he can play a part in a United victory.

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for MANCHESTER CITY team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch