Manchester United v Manchester City - Gary Neville's derby preview
Last Updated: 10/09/16 12:33pm
With United, City, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola set to renew their rivalry in the 172nd Manchester derby, Gary Neville tackles the key talking points ahead of Saturday's eagerly-anticipated clash at Old Trafford.
The eyes of the world will be on the Theatre of Dreams this Saturday lunchtime as the red and blue halves of Manchester collide live on Sky Sports.
In Mourinho and Guardiola, new managers will grace the touchline, while both clubs' summer spending spree means new faces will also experience this derby for the first time.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News HQ, former United defender, and Sky Sports pundit, Neville looks back on his experiences of this historic fixture, the impact Mourinho and Guardiola have already had in Manchester already and how the derby will be won and lost...
Q: Is this the biggest Manchester derby of all time?
"I've never known there to be so much publicity or noise around a game so early in the season. Of course, the biggest game was in 2012 when they were both going for the title, but in terms of a normal league game early in the season I've never known such drama. I hope the game lives up to expectation, I hope both teams see it as an opportunity to damage the other and win rather than thinking 'let's get out of this and fight our battles down the road'."
Q: Did you enjoy playing in this fixture?
"I didn't find them enjoyable to play in until I'd won - I didn't find any game enjoyable until I'd won! When you've won they are the most enjoyable games, these are games of high risk and high reward and devastation if they go wrong."
Q: What have Mourinho and Guardiola brought to United and City?
"There is no doubt that the feeling in the two clubs is better. They feel more confident and there is more belief in the clubs. Under Mourinho the fans feel as though they're watching a Manchester United team again. There's an element of surprise with [Paul] Pogba and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, an element of excitement going into the ground again.
"It's exactly the same with City, they feel as though they've got the right manager. At the moment it's the honeymoon period and the reality is yet to kick in for the manager who is going to lose. But, at present, the signs are good for both teams, they are better than where they were but it's very early days."
Q: Are we justified in billing the game as Mourinho v Guardiola?
"The arrival of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola has had a huge impact on Manchester. The excitement and expectation levels seem to be back. The Premier League has been a struggle to watch over the past few years but with these two managers, the investment they've been given and the players that have been attracted, it does feel like the Premier League is getting the managers and players it should have in light of the investment that has been made."
Q: Can you sum up each manager's approach to football?
"For Guardiola football is all about rhythm, all about the rhythm of the passing. For Jose I think he'll do whatever it takes to win. They are very different managers, they are very much different in style."
Q: Is this game a battle of the two best managers in Europe?
"You'd have to say yes, Guardiola and Mourinho are the two best managers in Europe. The clubs they've managed - Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Chelsea - have all been successful so they are the two-most successful managers in modern time."
Q: How will United deal with Guardiola's new-look City side?
"If I was in the United dressing room I'd be looking at the way Guardiola teams always play and I'd be thinking of disruption. Create some disruption. Slow the game down, win free-kicks, create spikes in the game, create an emotion in the crowd and disturb what City want to do because, ultimately, you can concentrate on your own game but when you're playing against a fantastic opponent you have to deal with them.
"United cannot let City build up that rhythm in the game, kill the crowd and control the possession. United will be better physically and they'll be hoping they can keep the crowd involved. Pep will always try and do something different but rhythm and disruption are the two words I'd use looking ahead to the game."
Q: Do you fear United and City would settle for a point?
"Both managers will go into the game wanting to win but the danger sometimes is that they won't want damage this early in the season, and the players will be the same. There is no doubt they'll want to win but they'll certainly not want to come out of the game where there's long-lasting damage.
"In terms of the title, neither team is going to win it this early, but they could lose it if they do something stupid. That could subconsciously play on the minds of the managers and players and could lead to the game not being as attractive as it could be. I hope that isn't the case and both teams go blow for blow to find out who's best."
Q: How will Manchester City cope without the suspended Sergio Aguero?
"Will Guardiola play with a centre-forward with Aguero missing? I'm not sure. He always tries to do something different and it wouldn't surprise me if there wasn't a centre-forward. On the other hand, he always tries to do something tactically different or something that's going to throw the game in a different way."
Q: Claudio Bravo could make his Manchester City debut. Could it be a baptism of fire for the former Barca 'keeper?
"Bravo has played for a big club in big atmospheres so the idea that he's never faced anything like a Manchester derby is garbage. The game is different in England to that in Spain though, to come into Old Trafford on his first game will be tough.
"I always remember Patrice Evra going to play his first game for United away at City and it was tough for him. To have such a big game at a 12.30pm kick-off can catch you out a little bit too. It's a big test for Bravo, he's experienced enough but it's a big test. If you were United you would definitely be looking to test him early in the game."
Q: Will John Stones be able to cope with Zlatan Ibrahimovic?
"John Stones is an absolutely fantastic player and will be a great centre-half. He's gone to City at the right time under a manager who trusts and believes in him to play the right way. He will continue to improve physically, although he is still slight in figure and he will improve and fill out in the next few years.
"He will struggle to handle Ibrahimovic's strength one on one, but that's where he needs to be clever and accept that he's not going to be able to win every ball and drop off him. The main thing for Stones will be marking Zlatan in the box when the crosses are coming in because he's a huge threat. That's the real challenge for Stones, marking Ibrahimovic body-to-body and dealing with his physicality."
Q: Is Wayne Rooney playing in the right position at United?
"Wayne Rooney will always go deep, it's a non-point. The only question that needs answering is whether he is still contributing to what Manchester United and Jose Mourinho want. Mourinho is playing him as a No 10 but he's dropping him deeper. It's impossible to stop Rooney dropping deeper, that's what he is now.
"He is still contributing in that position, setting up and scoring goals. I don't know why we are surprised that a 30-year-old player ends up going deeper. He is more of a midfield player now than a forward because that's where he plays, but he can still score goals and contribute. The only person this concerns is Jose Mourinho, who has to decide whether he brings value to the team."
Q: Should Jose Mourinho start Marcus Rashford?
"I hope Rashford does start because he will add to the game and he will be a big threat to Manchester City, but I don't think he will. Rashford offers something that would cause City problems, he proved that last season. I hope he starts from the point of view that the game will be better with him in it, he's got that unpredictability and would add something to the game.
"If you look at the areas Mourinho needs to change at United you would say that with Rooney and Juan Mata both in the team it does lack pace. Anthony Martial needs to do more, he needs to make more dangerous runs, work harder to get on the ball and he needs to contribute more when he's not scoring. He can do more, he's capable of it, he's a fantastic talent. At the moment Martial is probably the one in most danger (of losing his place to Rashford)."