Who Has the Edge in the Manchester Derby?

Will Manchester City, without their star striker, be able to leave Old Trafford with a victory in what is the headline match thus far in the Premier League?

Two of England’s premier clubs, Manchester United and Manchester City, face off Saturday in the first of two Manchester Derbies. These clubs have been competing since 1881, and Saturday should add another dramatic chapter to the deep history of the Manchester Derby.

The Red Devils and Sky Blues enter the derby as the two favorites to win the Premier League, and their fans will be eagerly awaiting the rivalry that will create an early boost for the winner. United and City have captured four of the last six league titles with the 2011-12 and 2012-13 campaigns seeing each squad come in second to the other.

Year Winner Runners-Up
2015-16 Leicester City Arsenal
2014-15 Chelsea Manchester City
2013-14 Manchester City Liverpool
2012-13 Manchester United Manchester City
2011-12 Manchester City Manchester United
2010-11 Manchester United Chelsea

Taking a closer look at the head-to-head matches over the last five years, City has had the upper hand, winning 6 of the 10 league matches, including a few blowouts. United, however, has not lost to City in their last three matches.

Year Date Outcome Venue
2015-16 3/20/2016 City 0-1 United Etihad
2015-16 10/25/2015 United 0-0 City Old Trafford
2014-15 4/12/2015 United 4-2 City Old Trafford
2014-15 11/2/2014 City 1-0 United Etihad
2013-14 3/25/2014 United 0-3 City Old Trafford
2013-14 9/22/2013 City 4-1 United Etihad
2012-13 4/8/2013 United 1-2 City Old Trafford
2012-13 12/9/2012 City 2-3 United Etihad
2011-12 4/30/2012 City 1-0 United Etihad
2011-12 10/23/2011 United 1-6 City Old Trafford

Home pitch for the derby has not seemed to matter as City has won three home matches while United has taken just one victory in front of their home fans. This weekend's fixture will be played at Old Trafford, home of the Red Devils, for what that's worth.

The New Managers

Both squads entered this season with new managers -- Pep Guardiola for Manchester City and Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. Both gaffers have impressed so far this season, leadings their squads to maximum points in the first three gameweeks. Although this will be Guardiola's and Mourhino’s first Manchester Derby, the managers are extremely familiar with one another as they have competed as managers in many competitions across Europe.

The two managers have created an ongoing rivalry, both on the pitch and off, being outspoken against each other in the past. The previous matches between the managers have been breathtaking, with Mourinho at one point having a player sent off in five straight matches against Guardiola. The two managers usually see their squads near the top of their respective leagues, which only adds to the rivalry, and they are usually at the helm for one of Europe's power clubs.

Guardiola and Mourinho competed against each other 11 times while both were managing in Spain -- Mourinho with Real Madrid and Guardiola with Barcelona. Having faced off in 11 El Clasicos, which is generally regarded as the top club rivalry in the sport, the two are no stranger to heated battles.

Year League Date Outcome Venue
2011-12 La Liga 4/21/2012 Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid Camp Nou
2011-12 Spanish Copa Del Rey 1/25/2012 Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid Camp Nou
2011-12 Spanish Copa Del Rey 1/18/2012 Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona Santiago Bernabeu
2011-12 La Liga 12/10/2011 Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona Santiago Bernabeu
2011-12 Spanish Super Cup 8/17/2011 Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid Camp Nou
2011-12 Spanish Super Cup 8/14/2011 Real Madrid 2-2 Barcelona Santiago Bernabeu
2010-11 Champions League 5/3/2011 Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid Camp Nou
2010-11 Champions League 4/27/2011 Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona Santiago Bernabeu
2010-11 Spanish Copa Del Rey 4/20/2011 Real Madrid 1-0 Barcelona Mestalla
2010-11 La Liga 4/16/2011 Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona Santiago Bernabeu
2010-11 La Liga 11/29/2010 Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid Camp Nou

Guardiola and Mourinho have managed against each other 16 times (across all competitions) with Guardiola getting the better of Mourinho in head-to-head contests. Guardiola has eight wins, three losses and five draws, although both managers have captured several major titles. If there are no more sabbaticals, this rivalry should continue over the next few years as both United and City figure to be among England's top sides for the foreseeable future.

Missing/Questionable Players

The biggest match thus far in the Premier League has both squads looking at their depth due to injuries and suspensions.

The Sky Blues enter the Derby with their star striker, Sergio Aguero, beginning his three game ban. Aguero was suspended for an elbow he threw in his previous match against West Ham. Losing Aguero against anyone is a big issue for City, but the Argentine has been a Manchester United killer, scoring eight goals in nine matches against the Red Devils.

If Guardiola decides to stay with his 4-3-3 formation, the most likely striker to replace Aguero would be Kelechi Iheanacho.

The young Nigerian striker has extremely strong dribbling skills and excels near the net. Iheanacho had 7 starts and entered the match as a substitute 19 times during the 2015-16 Premier League campaign, finishing with 8 goals, 1 assist and 28 shots. He is not Aguero, but he has a lot of promise and should be able to fill an attacking need for City.

As for United, the Red Devils enter the match with a slew of fitness questions.

Starting midfielder Marouane Fellaini was diagnosed with a back injury following United’s 1-0 victory over Hull City, and Mourinho stating after the match that the injury doesn’t look good. However, Fellaini reportedly trained without hindrance with Belgium over the international break, and he looks to be fit for the derby If he is good to go, Mourinho's squad would catch a huge break ahead of the derby.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan picked up a thigh injury in Armenia’s friendly against the Czech Republic and was expected to miss around 10 days. The Armenian took to Instagram and stated: “I continue extensively my rehabilitation, but I’m not sure yet if I will be fit for the derby this weekend.” Mkhitaryan has played in the first three matches, entering each as a substitute, and has fared decently well, averaging a WhoScored rating of 6.45.

The Red Devils' starting left back, Luke Shaw, withdrew from the England squad and did not travel with the team as he complained of “not feeling right.” England’s manager, Sam Allardyce, was confident the withdrawal was precautionary, and Shaw is hopeful to prove to Mourinho that he is fit for the derby.

Antonio Valencia, United’s starting right back, is fit but may be suffering from jet lag as the Ecuador international spent the break competing in South America and is due back to Manchester just 24 hours before the derby. Valencia, along with Shaw, are the major question marks for Mourinho entering the match. If one proves to be unfit, United's skipper will have to adjust a back line that has conceded just one goal in the first three matches.

The Matchup

Both squads are in good form early on, proving they are deserving of the hype as preseason favorites. Neither squad has yet to compete against a Champions League hopeful, however, meaning the derby will be the first real test for both sides.

Manchester United Manchester City
Shots (on goal) 52 (21) 50 (15)
Goals 6 9
Aerials won 60.3% 44.6%
Possession 52.6% 67.3%
Shots against (on goal) 30 (6) 24 (8)
Goals against 1 3

Digging into the numbers, both squads are in the top five in shots taken this season, with United placing a higher percentage of their shots on target. All of City’s goals have been scored inside the box, and they lead the league in total goals scored.

United has the upper hand when it comes to goals allowed, and keeper David de Gea has recorded two straight clean sheets. City has allowed one goal every match despite easily controlling the possession. United struggled with possession (43%) when they faced Southampton, who finished seventh last season. The Red Devils have proven their superiority in the air this year, winning 60% of their headers, while aerials are not a strength of City.


The Manchester Derby alone is reason enough to wake up early on a Saturday morning. With both squads likely competing for the title, it makes it even more dramatic. Throw in the rivalry between Guardiola and Mourinho, and it becomes can’t-miss television.

Guardiola has consistently come out on top in head-to-head matches with Mourinho, but his squad will enter the derby as the underdog. Both sides will look to gain an edge in the table in a critical early-season fixture.

Manchester City will be without Aguero while United appears to have caught a huge break with Fellaini likely being fit and ready to play in the midfield alongside Paul Pogba. The question mark for United will be the fitness of their two outside defenders. If Shaw and Valencia are in the starting XI, the Red Devils will have the opportunity to roll out what's been a stout back four. That consistency will be necessary for Mourinho’s squad, even up against a City lineup sans Aguero. Nolito and Raheem Sterling both have two goals for City this season, and Iheanacho has the ability to find the net.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will likely see an opportunity to add to his league-leading three goals as City has yet to record a clean sheet. City has proven so far this year that they are weak in the air, and United may look to capitalize in that department.

If the Red Devils are fully fit and can do better with their possession, they will likely have a good opportunity to exit the derby as the early table leaders. For City, they'll need to continue to control possession and find a way to stay dangerous in the attack without their star man if they want to pull the upset.