Manchester United (3rd) v Manchester City (1st) @ Old Trafford
Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola meet together for the first time in the Premier League in a blockbuster Manchester Derby at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon. With both teams flying high on top of the table alongside Chelsea, this is a mouth-watering contest that English football has been waiting for between the two heavyweight managers. The pair had a tense and volatile relationship in Spain where Guardiola's all conquering Barcelona often got the better of Mourinho's Madrid. The pair had several stormy encounters in Spain with Mourinho often trying to play spoiler with a fractious and at times ugly brand of football which caused several controversial incidents. Tonight is the first time in 3 years the pair have met with both teams flying high, having each recorded a hat trick of wins to start the new season.
United enter the game with a full bill of health despite Mourinho's usual grumbles about players returning fatigued from the international break. United dominated their last match against Hull but were forced to wait until the 92nd minute for Marcus Rashford to secure a dramatic late victory. Defensively United have looked much more assured under Mourinho having conceded just one goal in their opening 3 matches. New signing Eric Bailly has been in stellar form at the back with his pace and reading of the game impressing. Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Wayne Rooney have 5 goals between them in the opening 3 games and Mourinho will be leaning on their big game experience in this crunch derby. Mourinho has an outstanding record against Top 4 opponents in England and usually approaches the big games with caution and pragmatism. Mourinho will be happy to hand City more of the possession and soak up pressure if required.
City were handed a big blow during the week with Sergio Aguero banned for three matches after being hit with a violent conduct charge by the FA for a stray elbow in the side’s win over West Ham. New City keeper Claudio Bravo is expected to make his debut in the fiercest of cauldrons after joining from Barcelona during the International break. While City's inspirational leader Vincent Kompany is back in full training, he is unlikely to win the race against the clock to start this game. Raheem Sterling has started the season in impressive fashion with some live wire performances and he may be expected to take on extra responsibility up front in the absence of Aguero. John Stones has made a solid start after his big money move from Everton, however the young English central defender will face his sternest test here.
Verdict - Manchester United 1 Manchester City 0
Sometimes games in football are hyped up to the extreme and end up fizzling out and this could well be the case here. Both teams will firstly be desperate not to lose an early "6 pointer" to their fierce rivals. Mourinho is always cagey in the big games and is no chance of going gung-ho despite being at home. With City missing Aguero they may be forced to be a little more cautious particularly given a point on the road against their main title rivals would be considered a good result. I can see City having the bulk of the ball, however I see United having the more clear cut chances. I think the game could be a tetchy affair with plenty of niggling fouls to help break the momentum. I reckon United will nick a goal on the hour mark via a set piece from Wayne Rooney and hold on for a win despite some late City pressure.