As the first Manchester derby of the season looms, Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic has stated that the Premier League leaders, who are yet to taste defeat in the league this season can be stopped.
The derby comes on the back of City’s 6-0 demolition of Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. That is a second successive match in which the The Citizens have scored six times in a game after thrashing Southampton 6-1 last Sunday.
However, Manchester United also go into the game on a high after securing a third consecutive victory in all competitions. The dramatic 2-1 win against Juventus in the Champions League with United’s goals coming in the last five minutes shows a side ready to dig deep and win – even with all the odds stacked against them.
United occupy seventh place in the league table due to a poor start to the campaign, but the Red Devils have witnessed a resurgence in recent weeks. It is against this backdrop and the fact that despite City’s fearsome form under Pep Guardiola they have failed to defeat United at the Etihad in the last two seasons that Matic is confident of a good result on Sunday. In fact, Man City has lost just once in 37 Premier League games at the Etihad, but that defeat was against Mourinho’s United last season.
The two sides settled for a barren draw in 2017. And after going 2-0 down at halftime last season, United came back to stun the Citizens with three second-half goals to win 3-2. This is why it is understandable that Matic believes his side can stun Guardiola’s men on their own patch again.
But that will be easier said than done. United will need to be at their best this time around as the reigning champions are stronger this season. With just four goals conceded in 11 matches – the least in the division – while simultaneously scoring the most goals, the Red Devils face an uphill task.
United has shipped 18 goals in the same number of matches and have the fifth most porous defence in the top flight. With an attack boasting of goals spread across the forwards, City will definitely be difficult to contain. From Sergio Aguero to Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, and Mahrez, they are all scoring.
The defence will also be on alert to avoid a repeat of last season’s capitulation, especially when United’s last three wins have been from a losing positions. Frenchman Aymeric Laporte is in superb form. The other centre-backs have been rotated around him as he has played every minute of City’s league games so far. The French defender will be extra motivated for the derby.
All the same, in a derby match anything is possible just as the Serbian midfielder has indicated. Coming at a time when both sides feel they can take this one, you can expect fireworks.
On any given day, Mourinho will not want to lose to his arch rival, Guardiola. The duo’s rivalry goes way back. But there are more reasons why. To start with, a loss by United could spell doom for the club’s title hopes irrespective of the fact that it is still early in the campaign. A loss will open up a 12-point lead over United and with City reluctant to lose games this season, that gap could become difficult to close.
Secondly, after a difficult start to the season, another setback here could affect the players’ confidence and lead to more bad results.
Hence, it will not be surprising if the Portuguese manager pulls out every trick in the book to try help his side secure a much-needed win. Yet, it may prove too difficult to stop Guardiola’s blue army, if recent results are anything to go by.