Never before have we witnessed intense build-up to a Premier League match like the upcoming Manchester Derby on Sunday. League leaders Manchester City will be visiting the Old Trafford for one of its toughest fixtures to date against Manchester United.
The legendary rivalry of Mourinho vs Guardiola comes at us again with a new chapter to be written. The fact that City leads the table with 8 points difference over United is forgotten; for the audience it is a tale of the biggest two teams in England squaring it off against each other in a do-or-die encounter.
Mou and Pep come from different schools of thought. The Portuguese is pragmatic and realistic, sets up his team in a way that best exploits the channels that become available whenever his opponents attack. As seen against Arsenal, Manchester United managed to emerge victorious scoring 3 goals after capitalizing on two mistakes from Arsenal’s defence and one counter-attack at the dying minutes of the game. That’s how Mourinho’s team play, they are happy to concede the ball but close down all spaces and wait for the golden chance to execute a lethal counter-attack. The Red Devils have been in fine form this season bar some points lost due to key men being absent for injuries. Under Mourinho this season, Manchester United seemed to be solid at the back and deadly at the front; in a way that reminds us of his legendary Inter Milan team, the team that he managed to lead to a historic treble. The resemblance also lies in the sheer physicality the players have; players such as Pogba, Matic, Lukaku, Smalling, Fellaini, Bailly, and Rojo are all 187 cms and above, perfect for Mourinho’s defensive style of play used to counter possession-style teams, such as Manchester City.
On the other hand, Pep is romantic and revolutionary, a student of Cruyff, the man who changed the face of the game with FC Barcelona. Guardiola wants his team to have the ball at all times but not just for the sake of it, he wants it for several reasons that are considered part of his footballing philosophy: when having the ball the opponent can’t score, the opponent becomes reactive to the team’s proactiveness, and the chances of putting the ball into the net are higher. However, things are easier said than done, and that’s the reason Pep demands his team to boast extremely talented players in terms of technical quality and footballing intelligence. Before losing to Shakhtar Donetsk in what was considered a trial match for the youngsters, Manchester City were unbeaten in all competitions showing grit and determination as they managed to win some of their important games thanks to last-minute goals; a sign that the team’s mentality is on a higher level than last season.
No one can accurately predict the end result of the game. It would definitely be an intense encounter full of mini-battles inside the pitch with each team having a point to prove against the other. A win for the Red Devils will re-ignite the Premier League’s title race in addition to handing a severe psychological blow to the neighbors. Meanwhile a win for the Citizens will cement their status as arguably one of the best teams in Premier League history and edge them closer to the golden prize. One thing is for sure, Manchester will embark on an adrenaline-inducing Sunday.