Sports from the Basement

Massive Derby In Manchester

Arsenal went top of the table in the English Premier League today with their 2-1 win over Everton.  The real battle for first place comes tomorrow though at Old Trafford when the two halves of Manchester collide in the 170th edition of the Manchester Derby.  It sounds strange to say this early, especially in a league that has become as competitive as the Premier League has, but the winner of this one may very well be on their way to taking home the championship at season’s end.

This year’s edition of the Derby will be one of the most expensively fielded games of all time.  The two teams could feature game day rosters whose total wages would both be northward of £225m.  With the possible exception of an El Clasico in Spain, no duo of clubs is putting that type of coin on the field.  While some of those salaries are coming from tenured veterans on each side such as Wayne Rooney (United) and Yaya Toure (City), it will be the shiny new (and expensive) toys on display for both sides that will most likely prove the tipping point for either team.

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United’s golden goose is of course 19 year old striker Anthony Martial.  After selling Angel di Maria to PSG and Robin van Persie to Fenerbahce, Louis Van Gaal was left very thin in attack.  Youngster James Wilson and the aforementioned Rooney were the only two strikers with Manchester United caps to their name.  The first reinforcement was a man that Van Gaal knew very well from his time with the Dutch National Team, Memphis Depay.  Memphis came with great hype but was a value buy (£22.5 million) considering his talent and the fact that teams knew very well the amount of money United had in their transfer kitty.  United weren’t as frugal with their acquisition of Martial.

It took a hefty sum to pry the French international from Monaco’s hands, £36m up front to be exact with the final damage ending near the £58m range if the striker hit certain performance and appearance markers.  Ever since he scored in his debut against Liverpool, Martial has been a mainstay in Van Gaal’s starting lineup.  His power and calmness on the ball are traits far beyond his years and ones that will be necessary for United to defeat their crosstown rivals.

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As usual, City did some big spending of their own this summer.  Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne made their way to the Sky Blues from Liverpool and Wolfsburg respectively for nearly £100m combined.  The duo have proven thus far to be worth every penny of that.  They have been tremendous supplements to mainstays Sergio Aguero and David Silva.  Sterling and De Bruyne have also been more than adequate replacements when the two have found themselves unfit to play.  Head coach Manuel Pellegrini has already ruled out Silva and Aguero for Sunday’s clash (along with Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph, and Gael Clichy) meaning that once again the impetus to get goals falls on Sterling pouncing on laser crosses from De Bruyne.  I’m sure the two are salivating at the chance to thrash United like neither were able to do at Liverpool or Chelsea.

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While all these young guns will sell the tickets to the show, it is the men trying to stop them that are just as important heading into such a season-altering affair.  For United, they’ve been heavily reliant on Chris Smalling to be the main man in front of all-world goalkeeper David De Gea.  As Smalling’s counterparts have dropped around him or been shifted around, the former Fulham man has finally grown into both his body and role as a stopper through the air and down the middle.  Both him and De Gea have hit rough patches recently, but can still turn it on under the bright lights.  They’ll need to pitch a shutout if United are to leap from fourth to first.

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Manchester City will finally have their full back line back in working order for this crucial game.  Kompany was an unused substitute the last two games, against Bournemouth and Sevilla, as he was Pellegrini’s dog house.  Leaving on international duty carrying an injury when your coach explicitly tells you not to will do that.  The two have mended fences though and the captain will retake his place in the center of City’s defense.  Aleksandar Kolarov should also be back in at left back after working his way back to fitness off the bench in the UCL.  Those two additions puts substantially less pressure on Joe Hart, who has yet to keep a clean sheet with any combination of the two on the sidelines.  He kept five consecutive clean sheets to start the Premier League season.

So with all that on the table I’m sure you’ve come this far for at least a prediction, right?  Well here you go.  Manchester City come into Old Trafford and score first through Raheem Sterling.  United level before the break with the man that always seems to score in the Manchester Derby, Wayne Rooney.  The deadlock is broken in the second half by none other than Anthony Martial and the Red Devils hang on for a 2-1 victory.  The margin isn’t enough to put them ahead of Arsenal, but it gives them a mighty feather in their cap and puts them ahead of City.

Do you have a prediction?  Let us know at @sportsftb and be sure to follow me @TREVORutley as I’ll more than likely be live tweeting the game as I have this unhealthy habit of waking up way to early on the weekends.  ENJOY!

 

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