When Sheikh Mansour took ownership of Manchester City in 2008, it changed the face of football in Manchester. A series of big-money transfers promised to threaten Manchester United’s status as the city’s, and the country’s, top club. It is surprising, then, that the Manchester derby has lost its appeal since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
United have failed to compete domestically since the Scotsman left in 2013. This, along with the emergence of Tottenham, have made the Merseyside derby and matches between Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea stand alone as England’s most exciting fixtures. This season, however, should see the revival of the Manchester Derby.
Reviving the Manchester Derby
Prior to the 2017-18 Premier League season, the top six appeared to be more competitive than ever. Despite wins from Tottenham and Arsenal, both Manchester clubs showed their class during the opening weekend, cementing their places as title favourites. Should these performances be a sign of things to come, the Manchester derby could have more than bragging rights at stake.
The Sky Blues took on newcomers Brighton & Hove Albion in their season opener. Despite only recording a 2-0 victory, City provided a dominant performance, with plenty of room for growth.
Playing in a relatively unfamiliar 3-1-4-2 formation, strikers Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus have formed what could potentially be a very lethal partnership up front. Despite Kyle Walker flourishing on the right, Danilo was not nearly as effective on the left-hand side. When Benjamin Mendy is added to the starting XI he will provide much more of a threat. The pending return of Ilkay Gundogan will be a massive addition in midfield, too.
Brighton also bore witness to Manchester City’s incredible squad depth; star players Leroy Sané, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva all came off the bench. Pep Guardiola has reiterated that he will rotate his line-up frequently, making preparing to play Manchester City very difficult.
Despite fielding a depleted squad, Manchester City once again demonstrated their ability to become unplayable at the flick of a switch. Once the full team is available, they have the potential to be an unstoppable outfit.
Manchester United gave one of their best performances in the post-Ferguson era against West Ham. While the Hammers offered little resistance, Manchester United were able to score four very well-constructed goals, quashing doubts they would continue to struggle offensively.
The addition of Nemanja Matic to the starting XI created a multitude of options for the Red Devils, both offensively and defensively. The Serbian’s presence freed up Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to play free-flowing, attacking football. This, in turn, created more space for Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford to take up their preferred positions in attack. With Romelu Lukaku asserting himself physically, Manchester United look very good on the front foot.
While Matic was the standout performer in midfield, the back four all looked very confident. Antonio Valencia was at his free-running best once again, and Daley Blind provided timely support for Rashford on the left-wing. Centrally, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly looked organised and composed. Together, they neutralised the threat of Javier Hernandez, who was by far the Hammers’ best player. With David de Gea in goal, United look poised to be the Premier League’s best defensive team this season.
The Manchester Derby
Mansour’s arrival promised to make the Manchester Derby one of the most exciting fixtures in England. Since 2008, however, the Manchester clubs have only twice finished together in the top three, ultimately taking the ferocity and competitive element out of the rivalry. This season appears to be a different story.
City are best known for their attacking style of play, but they still have plenty of players who are no strangers to a physical battle, many of whom have been in Manchester long enough to have developed feelings for the club and an understanding of the rivalry. Conversely, the additions of Matic, Lukaku and Victor Lindelöf have greatly added to the physical nature of the United side.
The Manchester sides don’t meet in the league until the 9th December at Old Trafford. With over three months to sure up any deficiencies in two stand-out squads, title implications could well be on the line, and the Manchester derby reborn.
Embed from Getty Images