What Can We Expect When José Mourinho’s Manchester United Meet Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City For The First Time?

Posted: September 10, 2016 in European Football, Football, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League
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Will there be a feast of goals? Will there be any goals? How many players will still be on the pitch by the end of the game? How many managers will still be pitch-side by the end of the game? Which team’s fans will be leaving early? Who will have a great game and who won’t?

As per usual the derby game, like a lot of less well publicised games, throws up a lot of questions. By the end of today’s game we will have the answers to all of the above. It is far more interesting, however, to speculate as to what those answers may be before the game than it is to pretend that we knew those answers after the game.

Firstly, and hopefully, wrongly, I doubt there will be a feast of goals. That is Pep’s preferred way of playing but José Mourinho is a master at parking the bus. Whether he thinks that is the way to play in front of the home fans is doubtful though. It is more likely to be a cautious approach from both managers rather than either an all-out defensive strategy or an all-out attacking one. This despite some of the City players saying that they were going to “go for it.” They will do as instructed and will be quite pleased to leave with a point.

The chances of a 0-0 draw only exist because José Mourinho is one of the managers and he may, if the game is still that score late on, decide that a point is sufficient rather than risk losing. Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, is likely to press even harder for a winner so the irresistible force may, at some stage, meet the immovable object.

As to how many players will still be on the pitch at the end of the game, that is a little more tricky. Nowadays, the sending off for a second yellow card means that more players are despatched to the dressing room than at any time in the history of the game. The sport is almost non-contact so any player can be sent off for virtually any misdemeanour. The most likely culprits and, therefore, the ones to watch are Marouane Fellaini for United and Fernandinho for City.

In the “good old days” when players were sent off for an offence worthy of a sending off these two would have been top of the list. In today’s game, where sendings off are more frequent they are still top of the list although the likelihood of one of their team mates beating them to the showers is higher than it used to be.

Both managers should be able to handle the whole game from the technical area without being sent to the stands. It is a match charged with emotion and there is always the possibility that one or the other will over-react, either to the other coach, or to a refereeing decision seen as incorrect. Having said that, it shouldn’t happen and both managers should be able to shake each other warmly by the hand before departing to José’s office for a glass of red wine and a misty eyed reminiscence about the old times in Spain.

The fans leaving early is something which has always been questioned. Why would they do that? It even happens when the game is delicately poised and that is when I find it incredible.

As a youngster, I always used to leave Old Trafford five minutes before the end if the game was definitely either won or lost. I would never leave if it was still level or if it was close, say 1-0 or 0-1. My reason was very simple. It was either leave early and avoid the majority of the rest of the 60,000+ crowd, therefore having a clear walk to the bus stop with no delays and getting home at a reasonable time, or leave with everybody else, miss the bus, have to wait an hour for the next one, maybe be too far down the queue and miss that one as well, and get home late. I suppose these are still valid reasons today although the car is now used a lot more than it ever used to be.

Finally, on who will have a great game and who won’t. The first requirement is for the referee, Mark Clattenburg, to have a good day. He is, supposedly, England’s top referee, which says a lot about the quality of the rest. If he is on form he can affect the game in a positive way much like a player can. Good refereeing will see a flowing game with goalmouth incidents and end to end football. Alternatively, he can be whistle-happy, stopping the game every few seconds which will increase the chance of bad decisions and, consequently, spoil the game as a spectacle.

The most likely outcome of today’s game is a draw. Even though City are without Agüero and United are at home I don’t see them as favourites. As is often the case, when my head rules my heart, I hope I am wrong.

Check out some derby day goals and facts on the “Derby Days” page.

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