Manchester City and Manchester United will take part in the 188th Manchester derby at the Etihad on Sunday, live on sky sports. Ahead of the huge Premier League clash, we discuss the key battles.
State of play before kick-off
Five points separate champions City and United ahead of the rivals’ first meeting of the season, but Erik ten Hag’s side are one game less.
City have five wins and two draws in seven games this season, giving them a total of 17 points. After losing their first two games, United have won their last four to give them 12 points from six matches.
Of Manchester’s 187 previous derbies, City have won 57, United 77 and there have been 53 draws. The previous encounter ended 4-1 against City at the Etihad in March.
Can Varane and Martinez stop Haaland?
City have scored 23 Premier League goals so far this season, more than any other side. Erling Haaland scored almost half (11).
The Norway international, who has found the net 14 times in all competitions since joining from Borussia Dortmund, is set to come up against Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez on Sunday. Manchester United’s new central defending pair have been key to their recent mini-revival, but there’s no tougher test in football right now than coming up against the world’s most prolific No.9.
City scored 99 league goals last season en route to the title, and that was without Haaland. They knocked out United for four in the previous derby in March.
Seven months later, however, a lot has changed at Old Trafford. The arrival of a new manager and new players has breathed new life into Manchester’s red side, while a four-game winning streak after a disastrous start to the campaign has suddenly created a very different mood. The partnership between Varane and Martinez has been a common denominator.
Much has been made of Martinez’s height at 5ft 9in, but the stats suggest there has been a fuss for nothing. As United kept their first clean sheet of the season against Southampton last month, the Argentine won five out of five aerial duels and had a 100% duel success rate on the ground. He continued this impressive form and alongside him, Varane reviewed his best command.
Their performances have kept United captain Harry Maguire on the bench, and they will be keen to bolster their position as Ten Hag’s first-choice defensive duo by thwarting a near-invincible Haaland at the Etihad. How the City striker plans to outsmart them will be a fascinating watch.
Will De Bruyne have too much for McTominay?
While Varane and Martinez have deservedly earned plenty of plaudits in recent weeks, Scott McTominayUnited’s improved performance also contributed to United’s upturn in results.
Despite pleas from supporters to drop him at the start of the season, McTominay has responded impressively to his detractors and is currently Ten Hag’s favorite player to protect the back four. Keeping a £70million defensive midfielder in Casemiro on the bench is a testament to the Scotland international’s quality of play.
McTominay has been excellent throughout United’s four-game winning streak but Sunday’s derby poses a tough challenge. There’s probably nothing harder than trying to quit Kevin De Bruyne.
The Belgian was instrumental as City maintained their unbeaten start to the season by beating Wolves 3-0 before the international break.
He netted two assists at Molineux to take his Premier League tally to 92 – the same number as Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard managed in more than twice as many games. De Bruyne leads the league this season with six out of seven games.
Is there a better midfielder in world football right now? This is what McTominay faces.
Grealish will give Dalot the reality?
Diogo Dalot is in the shape of his life. The Portugal international established himself as United’s first-choice right-back last season under caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick and has continued in that role under new manager Ten Hag.
He has been ubiquitous in the league this season and was arguably United’s most improved player under the Dutchman. His impressive form has even led to talks of a new long-term contract at Old Trafford.
Dalot underlined his attacking qualities by scoring twice in Portugal’s recent 4-0 win over the Czech Republic, but it is his defensive resolve that will be tested the most on Sunday when he is likely to come up against at Jack Greish.
Although he admits he hasn’t been at his best since joining Aston Villa for £100million last year, Grealish has started three games in a row in all competitions on the left side of City’s attack and scored his first goal of the season against Wolves. the last time.
It will come as no surprise if he were to return to that position for the champions on Sunday and Dalot will need to be prepared for a different kind of challenge. His defensive intelligence will certainly be put to the test against someone of Grealish’s technical quality, while the 23-year-old’s trademark forward runs will need to be conducted with greater caution and precision at the Etihad.
Sancho can prove the point at Southgate
Another player benefiting from playing under Ten Hag is Jadon Sancho. The winger has played a key role as part of a smooth forward line in pre-season and carried those impressive performances into the new campaign. He has scored three goals in eight appearances this season. It took him 24 games to get there last season.
The 22-year-old has rediscovered the form that convinced United to pay £73m to sign him from Borussia Dortmund last summer, but his recent performances have yet to convince everyone. He was left out of Gareth Southgate’s last England squad for the Nations League matches against Italy and Germany.
Sunday, however, offers him perhaps one last chance to force Southgate’s hand before he names his squad for the World Cup next month. Getting the best of England’s best right-back in Kyle Walker could do just that. Such a performance would make it almost impossible for the Three Lions boss to ignore him.
But defeating Walker is an almighty task. Since joining City in 2017, the England international has become perhaps the best defensive back in world football. Eden Hazard, Neymar and Bukayo Saka have all described Walker as one of the toughest opponents they have faced.
The 32-year-old’s excellent recovery pace and ability to defend one-on-one situations make his potential battle with Sancho perhaps the most interesting, given United’s tendency to hit teams on the counterattack.
Although Sancho scored against Walker and City in March when Rangnick was in charge, he is undoubtedly playing with more confidence under Ten Hag. Sunday’s game will show how much he has improved.
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Manchester’s first derby of the season will take place in front of the Sky Sports cameras this Sunday – but how are the teams preparing ahead of the showdown?
look Manchester City v Manchester United live on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event from 1pm on Super Sunday; kick off 2 p.m.