MANCHESTER BURNING

MANCHESTER BURNING
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It’s here with us again! The blue and Red halves of the city of Manchester that have been divided into two football-wise, will literally burn on Saturday 10th September when the two foes Manchester United and Manchester City clash in the 172nd edition of the Manchester derby.

The stakes have never been this higher and the bragging rights to be called the masters of Manchester, have never been more relevant. Gone are the days when every pundit could and predicted a win for United. Those days are gone for good.

Pic: The foes, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho

Pic: The foes, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho

Since 2008 when the Abu Dhabi Group bought Manchester City, the club has metamorphosed from relegation contenders that Sir Alex once euphemistically labeled “noisy neighbours” to actual championship contenders and have won the title twice to back up that claim.

They have brought in some of the best players in the world like Yaya Toure, Sergio Arguero, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and the like. A club that can afford to hire the services of Pep Guardiola cannot in any sense be said to lightweight!

Going into this season’s campaign, the two teams have beefed up their respective squads all aimed at winning the derby and ultimately annexing the trophy come the end of the season. Between the two sides, they have spent a total amount of £313m in the summer alone to bring in much needed reinforcements that would stand them in good stead.

Pic: Leroy sane

Pic: Leroy sane

Manchester United spent a whopping £143m to bring in such players as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the jewel in the crown French international, Paul Pogba while Manchester City spent an unbelievable £170m to bring in John Stones, Leroy Sane, Claudio Bravo, Gabriel Jesus and Nilito. Having spent heavily in the transfer market, none can offer any excuses in the event of failure.

So how would Stones fare against Ibrahimovic.  How would Arguero far against the new boy Bailly? How would City contend with the Pogba stranglehold in the middle of the field? There are more questions than answers. The answers to the above questions, would be found in the dug outs of the two teams.

Pic: Zlattan Ibrahimovic

Pic: Zlattan Ibrahimovic

Yes, the feud that had existed between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho when they were managers at Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, in 2011 and 2012 would be reignited on the hallowed turfs of the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford on Saturday.

The man in the dugout with the best strategy for the occasion would certainly win the day. As I intimated earlier, the two men have been in the similar situation before while managing in Spain. However, Pep would not be in charge of that scintillating Barcelona side with a certain Leo Messi who was simply unstoppable then. Nor would Mourinho be in charge of the Galacticos of Real Madrid with a certain Cristiano Rinaldo as its arrowhead. This is a different terrain altogether.

The battle ground has now moved to England and the Premier League (EPL) is a different ball game. Would the free flowing football philosophy of Pep that thrived in especially Spain and brought him so much success be enough to snuff out the conservative brand of Mourinho that believes in countering to get the better of the opponent?

This is without doubt, the sporting world’s most important match-up of the week.  All other events pale in comparison.  Not even the much hyped US Open Grand Slam final matches can compare.

Pic: Sergio Arguero

Pic: Sergio Arguero

My hope is that the match would not be too technical and tactical for if that happens, creativity would be stifled and the match would not come alive. The players should be allowed to play their game. Any impediments in the paths of the two teams have been batted aside. England number one Joe Hart was found not good enough for City and was straightaway offloaded to Torino with Claudio Bravo being brought in. German midfield lynchpin Sweinsteigger, his international pedigree notwithstanding, has found himself being consigned to the reserve side of the Red Devils.

The match would be interesting with exciting battles between certain players. Bailly’s crunching tackles on Arguero would be a must see. Can Stones stop Ibrahimovic who likes to dominate defenders? These would certainly be interesting sub-plots but make no mistake the real battle on the day would be who gets the better of the other? Would it be Pep Guardiola who would smile at the end of the day or would it be Jose Mourinho?

Who is your money on? According to Wahab Abdul Tekyi, no matter what strategy City deploys, Man. Utd will prevail by 3 goals to 1. Charles Okra Pinto says it’s going to be 2 nil to United. Sammy Alex on the other hand, is rooting for City. I ask you once again, ‘who is your money on’? If you ask me I will say simply that “I don’t think United can afford to lose such a match”.

 



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