Rarely has so much hype surrounded a fixture. But, if you combine City and United's starting XI, who comes out on top?
You might have heard there’s a game on this weekend. Gone are the days when the biggest subplot surrounding the Manchester derby was the form of Shaun Goater. These days, what with Pep, Jose, Zlatan and co., things are a little more high profile.
So, with the whole world comparing, analysing and predicting, let’s simplify things. If you pitted United’s historic pulling power against City’s nouveau riche might, who comes out on top? A Manchester XI is the only way to settle this particular score.
Of course, such a unification is entirely hypothetical. In fact, we can’t think of a more unlikely collaboration since Elton John and Tupac, or Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry. But hey, you can’t exactly blame us for getting into the spirit of one of the most highly anticipated matches in Premier League history right?
And, before you ask, we are only including players available for Sunday’s game. And, yes, that means no Aguero.
David De Gea
On the winning side of a Manchester derby on his United debut, De Gea would surely have expected the 2011 Community Shield to be the first of many trophies he would hold aloft in a United shirt. It hasn’t quite transpired that way but United’s three-time Player of the Year has countered his team’s malaise, evolving into one of the world’s top goalkeepers.
A lack of form and fitness characterised Valencia’s post-Ferguson years, with Matteo Darmian’s arrival last summer seemingly spelling the end for the jet-heeled Ecuadorian. However, the 31-year-old has roared back this season, rediscovering the electric wing play that made such an ominous opponent in his 2011 pomp.
Splashing £30 million on a 22-year-old centre-half with almost as many bookings as senior appearances understandably raised a few eyebrows, but Bailly has proved the doubters wrong emphatically with an outstanding start to his United career. Calm, confident and commanding: the Ivory Coast international is the epitome of a Mourinho centre-half.
Though Aleksandar Kolarov has undergone a transformation of Javier Mascherano-size proportions under Guardiola, Stones remains the jewel in City’s new-look defence. £47.5 million is a huge amount of money but when a certain Catalan coach so desperately wants you, you know you’re something rather special.
Completing a United-heavy back four, Luke Shaw has shown few ill-effects from that horrific leg break against PSV a year ago, his rampaging runs and boundless energy remaining key features of his ever-expanding skill set. Still only 21, Shaw could dominate the left flank for United and England for the best part of a decade.
Pep Guardiola quipped that Fernandinho could play in 10 positions at the start of the season. So far, the Brazilian has largely stuck to one, though that’s no slight on a player who has improved immeasurably in each of his three seasons at the Etihad. A superb distributor, Fernandinho could be City’s Sergio Busquets.
Is there anything more to say about Paul Pogba? The most expensive player in football history, a touted future Ballon D’Or winner, the prodigious Frenchman is arguably the most complete footballer of his generation. Elegant yet powerful, Pogba plays the game at his own speed and makes everyone around him dance to his rhythm.
Kevin de Bruyne
The bleached-blonde Belgian sneaks in ahead of his Bundesliga Player of the Year successor Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with an injury picked up on international duty likely to deny the Armenian his derby debut. A Swiss Army knife of an attacker, his scorching shots and wicked set-piece delivery make him the most expansive weapon in Pep’s armoury.
After a rather ineffective season by his unique standards in 2015-16, Silva looks back to his ethereal best in the opening weeks of the new campaign. Rolling back the years against West Ham last time out, the elusive Silva is proving game by game that there is no end in sight to his deceptive brilliance.
It’s been a difficult year for Sterling, both human and currency versions. Yet, the most expensive English player of all time is finally starting to live up to the tag, as two goals and an assist in his opening three Premier League games showcased an effective end-product that was, until now, rather more erratic.
Who else? Sergio Aguero’s retrospective sidelining for an elbow on Winston Reid certainly made the decision a lot easier, but Ibrahimovic’s stellar start to another new chapter in his already storied career has done little to dampen the enthusiasm among United fans in what is already shaping up to be an exhilarating campaign.
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