Sunday 18 February 2018

Manchester United v Manchester City talking points

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola
Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola

An already mouth-watering clash between Manchester United and Manchester City has taken on added importance after a bad weekend for both clubs.

Ahead of the EFL Cup last-16 encounter at Old Trafford, Press Association Sport's Simon Peach looks at five of the key pre-match talking points.


When Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola renewed hostilities last month it was mostly about bragging rights given the winning start both managers had enjoyed in their new jobs. The initial buzz has petered out somewhat since then, with City looking for a repeat of their 2-1 triumph at Old Trafford and the end of a testing winless run. Guardiola reportedly kept his players in the dressing room for an hour after Sunday's 1-1 home draw with Southampton - a result that means the manager faces the spectre of six matches without a victory for the first time in his career. United are nursing wounds of their own after a six-match unbeaten run came to a humiliating end at Mourinho's former club on Sunday, with Chelsea dishing out a 4-0 thumping at Stamford Bridge.


The managers endured a fractious relationship in Spain, with things often becoming heated as Mourinho and Guardiola battled for the LaLiga crown with Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively. Heavy rain put paid to the money-spinning summer friendly in Beijing and when the rivalry was finally reignited there was a surprising lack of flashpoints before, during and afterwards. Guardiola taking first blood must rankle, though, and exacting revenge is important for Mourinho's men at this stage.


For all the attacking excitement, mistakes have been stark since Guardiola's arrival. John Stones' inexplicable no-look pass back was punished by Saints' Nathan Redmond at the weekend, just days after Claudio Bravo's blundering attempt to play out from the back saw him sent off for handling outside the area in a 4-0 humbling at former club Barcelona. The Chilean, a controversial summer signing, could have seen red for a lunge on Wayne Rooney after playing into danger when the sides met last month. Guardiola is set to give the nod to Willy Caballero for the EFL Cup match, but a strong display from whoever is selected is necessary.


Before the recent Manchester derby, in-form Zlatan Ibrahimovic posted a tongue-in-cheek video of him sending Bravo some training gear with the message "you're gonna need it". To the 35-year-old's credit, as well as it being savvy PR, he followed it up with a fifth goal in as many games. Since then, though, he has mustered one in eight matches. A close-range header against Zorya Luhansk is not exactly a yardstick of success either, leading calls to grow for Marcus Rashford to lead the line. The teenager has shown his worth down the middle as well as his ability to handle the occasion, netting the winner in last season's win at the Etihad Stadium.


Under so much scrutiny for club and country, Rooney has been conspicuous by his absence in starting line-ups of late. He was not even in the squad for the trip to Chelsea due to an unspecified muscle injury sustained in training. Whether the 31-year-old is back for Wednesday remains to be seen, as does whether he has much of a future at the club he has called home since 2004. Fresh reports on the eve of the match suggest Mourinho has told Rooney he needs to move if he wants regular first-team football.

Press Association

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