The Hypothesis – Manchester Derby Edition

Fighting out of the red corner; the most successful English club domestically, Manchester United. Fighting out of the blue corner; the noisy neighbours, Manchester City. Manchester is a city divided. Households are split. The living room walls painted red, the couches between them coloured sky blue.

For so long, United has been the older brother that is more successful and more popular. City was always that other team from Manchester. Now everything has changed. City is all grown up and can match United punch for punch in the metaphorical fight, even knocking their older brother out on one occasion, think back to 6-1 in 2011-12.

Manchester can now claim what only Milan before them could, being home to two of the biggest football clubs in the world; and the derby on Saturday night will be one of the most eagerly anticipated of all time. The storylines are enthralling, the superstars will be on show and the world will be watching.

Both teams are under new management this season and have started the season with 100% records, although the manner in which the two teams have achieved that fete could not be any more different.

Teams managed by Pep Guardiola are expected to have the majority of possession, but how quickly the City players have adopted Guardiola’s philosophy has surprised many. The manager’s teams have averaged between 57% and 60% possession in his last four seasons; despite it still being early in the season, his City side is already averaging 67% possession, a sizeable increase on what was already an impressive statistic.

It is not just how much of the ball Manchester City have had, it is where they have had it. City has so far completed 1085 passes in the opposition’s half this season. United in comparison has only completed 941 passes.

However, possession is not Jose Mourinho’s game. The Manchester United manager carries a defence first mentality. United has kept two clean sheets out of three games so far this season, City is yet to keep one. That could soon improve though, with the signing of Claudio Bravo from Barcelona.

United’s players are physically bigger than their cross-city rivals. The red half of Manchester has fielded five players this season (Ibrahimovic, Fellaini, De Gea, Smalling and Pogba) who are taller than City’s tallest player John Stones. As a result, United have won 61% of their aerial duels, compared to City’s 45% success rate.

In many ways, this match will be a battle of brains vs. brawns, skill vs. power. This will not be any more exemplified than in the front man of each side. With Sergio Aguero suspended, Guardiola may opt to utilise a false 9, with Nolito the most likely option. There is no prize for guessing who will be leading the line for United, their top goal scorer so far Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

City’s Raheem Sterling has been just as impressive, leading the competition for touches in the opposition’s box with 33, Ibrahimovic is 5th with 23. With the danger that Sterling presents, United’s flying fullbacks will have to focus more on their defensive duties than they have had to in their first three games.

The head to head record between the two sides in the Premier League makes for good reading for United supporters, with the Red Devils winning 20, drawing 7 and losing 11.

The head to head record between the managers in all competitions is in favour of the City manager though, with Pep winning 7, drawing 6 and losing 3 to his opposite number.

Score Prediction: 2-1 United


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