Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho relishes the must-not-lose matches that play a pivotal role in a title race. Points are at stake, sure, but almost as important is the psychological impact of the outcome. In the past, Mourinho has tended not to gamble for a win in games against title rivals, presumably aware of the damage that can be done by suffering defeat. In that case, expect United to be risk-averse against rivals City in Saturday’s Manchester derby. Those pining for Marcus Rashford to start could be disappointed.
Ominously, we could be in for similarities with Louis van Gaal’s infamous brand of safety football. But Mourinho, who might have gone into this game under greater pressure had he not been saved late by Rashford at Hull City, will unlikely care a jot if it preserves his side’s unbeaten start to the season. The former Chelsea boss has shown he sees the bigger picture when it comes to title-winning campaigns.
Conversely, City’s strength under Pep Guardiola is in their mesmeric attacking. How Guardiola copes without the suspended Sergio Aguero remains to be seen — perhaps Raheem Sterling will play as a False No.9 — but nonetheless it seems unlikely we’ll see the visitors to Old Trafford retreat. In spite of being the home team, United are expected to see less of the ball and rather look to counter-attack. While so much is expected of this gargantuan clash, we could be in for a game of cat and mouse rather than the blood and thunder supporters are yearning for. Don’t expect it to be publicly admitted, but both managers might well settle for a draw, considering we’re only baby steps into 2016-17.