Manchester United vs Manchester City is all set to take place during the International Champions Cup in China. Here we preview their chances for the entire season
The English Premier League is all set to witness the clash of the titans. On one side you have the former ‘Special One’, Jose Mourinho. On the other you have the master of tiki taka, Pep Guardiola.
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Undoubtedly, Mourinho’s standing has taken a beating after his unceremonious sacking last season. Add to the fact that he has managed to win just one league title in the last 4 seasons. Although, his relative lack of success can be explained away by various factors, Mourinho is a proud man.
He knows this is the job he will be remembered for. This is the job he reportedly craved 3 seasons prior. Then United rebuked him. Now, with both parties having suffered setbacks, it seems a match in heaven.
Guardiola, meanwhile led Bayern Munchen to 3 consecutive league titles. Each season, the gap between them and potential incumbents seemed to widen further and further. However, Pep could never really match his Barcelona success.
With Bayern proving to be unbeatable in Germany, it was the European crown that they craved for. Unfortunately, Pep’s Bayern fell at the semi-final hurdle every time. While both parties claim that results were satisfactory, the lack of European success undoubtedly sticks out like a sore thumb.
Now both men have got the opportunity to right their wrongs. Unfortunately, they are once again in each other’s way. So, what do they and their teams need.
Like the 3 previous summers, Manchester United have been the bookies favourite for transfer related rumours. However, unlike the last 3 years, this time United have actually made news for the right reasons.
Their pursuit of targets has been impeccable. The last 3 seasons had seen a host of big names being linked to the club, only for none of the deals to materialize. This season, breaking the trend, United actually managed to sign free agent Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
United also successfully completed deals for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly. They may yet break the transfer record and bring Paul Pogba back to his old stomping ground.
As a result, the team looks pretty settled and the new signings are set to have a pre-season with the club. The previous seasons had seen Deadline day signings of Falcao and Fellaini, while the likes of Angel Di Maria and Daley Blind had joined quite late too.
Plethora of options
Now, with the presence of several big money signings, Mourinho seems to have a problem of plenty. The front 6 looks especially cluttered with the presence Rooney, Carrick and Young from the Ferguson era.
Moyes signings, Fellaini and Mata, are also present, along with Januzaj, who emerged from the youth ranks that season. Add to that the plethora of Van Gaal signings in Herrerra, Memphis, Schweini, Schneiderlin and Martial. Apart from that there are the new signings and youth products.
Mourinho has a job on his hands, if he is to keep everyone happy.The quartet of De Gea, Luke Shaw, Smalling and Martial seem to be sure starters. Add to that Zlatan and Mkhitaryan. The remaining slots should see healthy competition.
For Chris Smalling’s defensive partner, Blind and Bailly seem to have the upper hand on Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones. The right back position looks complicated with as many as 3 genuine contenders: Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian and the youngster, Tim Fosu Mesnsah.
Further upfield, Michael Carrick could retain his place, as his contract was extended on the express recommendation of Mourinho. Paul Pogba, if signed, seems a shoo in. There are multiple options in the physicality of Fellaini, creativity of Herrerra and defensive solidity of Schneiderlin.
Upfront, Rooney and Mata seem to be contending for the No 10 slot. While Van Gaal may have handed special privileges to his captain, Mourinho is unlikely to comply. Also, it seems he is prepared to give Mata a chance to prove himself.
Predicted Starting XI: De Gea, Valencia/Darmian, Smalling, Blind/Bailly, Shaw, Carrick, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Rooney/Mata, Martial, Zlatan
Like the previous years, Manchester City have gone about their business in their efficient manner. The last season was especially disappointing for City as their title challenge fell away way before the business end of the season.
Guardiola’s arrival is supposed to signal a change for the club. The club moved quickly to snap up Ikay Gundogan. Considering all the signings made by the 2 Manchester clubs, this one seems to be the best.
While United fans have reason to be optimistic about Mkhitaryan, Gundogan has been among the best players in the world far longer. While Zlatan is inarguably the most high profle signing of the window, Gundogan’s move is far more shrwed.
The only worry for City fans would be his injury record. However, if he manages to stay fit, Gundogan could well go on to serve City for years to come. His signing may yet be trumped by that of Pogba, but that is another matter.
Another shrewd signing is that of Nolito. While Raheem Sterling managed to blow hot and cold throughout the previous season, the presence of Nolito will ensure healthy competition and a handy goalscorer.
Also, as a Barcelona youth product, Nolito is ingrained in the virtues preferred by Guardiola. Nolito can also prove to be back up/replacement for Sergio Aguero upfront.
Unlike United, City haven’t been that active in the transfer market and may yet opt to buy a centre back, rumoured to be john Stones. They may also opt for a left back, to replace/ compete with 30 year olds: Kolarov and Clichy.
On the other hand their midfield looks prepared. Even if Yaya Toure were to leave, City have sufficient cover in Gundogan and fellow new signings, Aaron Mooy and Zinchenko.
There are rumours that Guardiola would move for Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo to replace the error prone Joe Hart. Also, Schalke’s Leroy Sane is reported to be keen to work with Pep. The stumbling block in this case seems to be the price.
Predicted Starting XI: Hart, Kompany, Stones, Kolarov/Clichy, Gundogan, Toure/Fernandinho, Silva, Sterling, Nolito, Aguero