A two-week hiatus and the Premier League returns with all its might and glory. Two scintillating days of football coming up with the North London Derby on Saturday and the Manchester Derby on Super Sunday.
Manchester United were nothing short of fabulous in the league before the break across English football, having notched up four successive victories capped off by a stunning 3-1 win over the early season league – leaders, Arsenal at Old Trafford. As we head into the Manchester Derby this weekend, United have been steadily gaining momentum on and off the pitch with Erik Ten Hag and Marcus Rashford picking up the monthly league honours in September.
At the centre of United’s success has been the resolute defensive structure that they have managed to maintain throughout their winning run in the league. Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane are on the top of their game now and, in combination with the full-backs, Tyrell Malacia and Diogo Dalot, United have arguably one of the top – performing defences in the English top–flight.
Although the initial league – form of David De Gea in goal and the defence at large was quite concerning, the run since then has been nothing short of consistent. Top saves, tackles and duels won, United have excelled across the defensive spectrum.
However, the game against City is expected to be a different animal altogether. Erling Haaland on top form up against Lisandro Martinez is the most – awaited battle at the Etihad. The only other time Martinez met Haaland, Ajax ran out as 4-0 winners against Borussia Dortmund. Although United’s game against City is expected to be a lot different to the Champions League encounter between Ajax and Dortmund, Martinez can certainly take some of those learnings into Sunday’s crunch game at the Etihad.
United’s midfield is a good example of a total transformation, although the sample size in terms of the number of games is relatively low now to label this transformation as a definitive conclusion. Regardless, Christian Eriksen is set to be part of any “Top summer signings” list that is drawn up as part of this season. The Dane has been in scintillating form in a relatively deep-lying midfield role, linking well with Bruno Fernandes in attack whilst playing a pivotal role in partnering United’s sole defensive midfielder in the side in Scott McTominay, Casemiro or Fred.
Scott McTominay has been a revelation in United’s winning run in the league keeping new summer signing, Casemiro out of the starting XI with consistent performances in covering the defence and a much–improved passing range transitioning from defence into attack. With Casemiro slowly but steadily getting to grips with the pace of the Premier League, United’s defensive midfield looks like it’s turning the screws towards formidability.
The chants of “Attack, attack, attack” are very well-known across the Old Trafford faithful. United’s attack this season has been efficient and effective over free-flowing to put things into perspective. Marcus Rashford has returned to form in the nick of time and has also recovered from injury to face City in the derby on Sunday. Meanwhile, the wings again have that much-needed injection of pace and guile in Antony and Jadon Sancho as primary options in the starting XI. The only concern for United would be a lack of depth in the central striking options with Cristiano Ronaldo not exactly in the best form of his life and Anthony Martial just returning to full training after a long injury.
As we head into Sunday’s heavyweight clash in Manchester, United’s attack will undoubtedly need to up their game given there is a certain Norwegian in blue who is setting new records every time he starts for City in the attack.
In a nutshell, Sunday’s game promises to be an intriguing contest between two heavyweights in Manchester. United looking to build their momentum to surge into the Top 4 and City looking to move back to the top and extend their unbeaten run in the league. It certainly has all the ingredients to prove to be a classic.