Manchester City and Ireland legend Niall Quinn is pretty sure what will decide the upcoming derby
Having banked six years at Maine Road in another life, Niall Quinn is as qualified as anyone to speak to the enormity of the Manchester derby, and the former Republic of Ireland striker has identified two areas where Saturday’s edition could be won or lost.
Niall Quinn arrived at Manchester City from Arsenal just months before heading to the World Cup in Italy as of one of Jack Charlton’s charges, and would go on to make 204 appearances and score 66 goals.
Two of them, netted in a pulsating showdown at Maine Road on a rain soaked November night in 1993, gave City an early 2-0 lead against United, before Eric Cantona registered a brace of his own, and then none other than Roy Keane blasted home the winner in his first Manchester derby.
Speaking on talkSport, Quinn couldn't hide his excitement ahead of the skirmishes to come at Old Trafford. Indeed, the resumption of the battle of wits between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho was a factor he quickly highlighted.
“Jose and Pep is huge. The value of the players, if you’re talking about the value of the players on the field, I think there’s over three quarters of a billion worth of talent on show – it’s even hard to say.
“They are two of the most successful managers world football has known, so they wear big badges of honour pinned onto them, they have got there because they are so ruthless.
“And, despite how they come across in their exterior, winning means everything, and being the best and number one is just foremost in their lives.
“And now, the two of them clash in another big head-to-head, and it kind of brings you back to the other ones they had over the years, whether it be Barce/Inter or Barce/Real. They were memorable occasions and I can’t see this one being any different.
“I’m as fascinated by what goes on in the dugout during the game just as much as I am by what happens on the pitch. I know we always kind of say each year that the Premier League is going to bigger and better than last year, but this is standout for me, it’s just so big,” he said.
While many United fans are clamouring for Mourinho to give the red-hot Marcus Rashford a start in fixture his goal decided in April, the probability is that the Portuguese will retain Zlatan Ibrahimović and Wayne Rooney.
According to Quinn, the clash between the towering Swede and City’s £47.5m man, the languid but error prone John Stones, will also be a pivotal subplot.
“I think the big match up is Zlatan versus Stones – what’s going to happen there and who comes out on top.
“That could go a long way to deciding the people who are feeling the happiest – Manchester City or Manchester United.”
As a one time looming centre forward himself, Quinn is a huge admirer of the former PSG man, and the manner in which he economically disperses his output.
“I think he’s more preoccupied by getting into positions of comfort. In other words, a yard or two off, hanging into space and making life difficult for the defender. He reads the game beautifully, he’s very good at exploiting that space and doesn’t use up a whole lot of energy to do it.
“So when he does make a burst, he doesn’t look like a 34-year-old player, he still looks like a supreme athlete. He doesn’t waste any fuel.
“I look back the amount of times I’d play in a derby, run my legs off for 70 minutes and then get taken off, but that’s just the way the game is going,” he quipped.
Quinn cited the absence of the suspended Sergio Aguero and the possibility of handing goalkeeper Claudio Bravo his debut as issues City could do without, but also expressed reservations about United’s record signing Paul Pogba, and just how he’ll factor in proceedings.
“Pogba, we’re looking at him to do all sorts of great things, but I just wonder how all that is going to work out as well. With the likes of De Bruyne and Silva trying to get things going for City, what kind of role does Pogba have?
“Does he play defensive or does he go out, because they’re at home, and try to be the derby hero?
“It’s just so intriguing. But it all boils back down to what Pep and Jose decide. Over 90 minutes of enthralling theatre, their decisions will be key to it all."