Manchester United vs Manchester City: Key Battlegrounds As ten Hag Faces Guardiola’s Acid Test

Manchester United vs Manchester City: Key Battlegrounds As ten Hag Faces Guardiola’s Acid Test

Martin Moses
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
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  • Manchester United will be angling for a third successive Premier League win when they face Manchester City on Sunday
  • The defending champions have bounced back after a run of three losses in four games in all competitions
  • We take a look at some of the areas where the game could be won and lost when the teams line up at Old Trafford

Manchester City will make the short trip to Old Trafford to face their cross-town rivals Manchester United on Sunday, October 29, looking to inflict more trouble and uncertainty on Erik ten Hag's side.

The Red Devils have laboured to slender wins in recent weeks, with the squad playing bereft of the confidence they rode on to a third-place finish and the Carabao Cup triumph last season.

Erik ten Hag, Pep Guardiola, Manchester derby
Pep Guardiola and Erik ten Hag when they last met on June 3, 2023. Photo by Mike Hewitt.
Source: Getty Images

The game will start on a sad note, given that it will be United's first home league fixture since the passing on of the legendary Sir Bobby Charlton. Pep Guardiola indicated last week that they will join their rivals in remembering Sir Bobby, but afterwards, it will be business as usual.

Sports Brief takes a look at the key battlegrounds of the 191st Manchester United derby.

1. Maguire's resurgence vs. Haaland

There is no denying that Harry Maguire has been the most improved player of the last couple of game weeks. From solid defensive displays to creating chances from deep, the England international capped it off with the match-winning goal against Galatasaray.

He is certain to be one of the defensive pairings that ten Hag will start on Sunday to combat the threat that is Erling Haaland. Already on 9 goals, the Norwegian has mastered the art of 'ghosting' the entire game only to come up with one decisive moment.

Maguire and co will need to be switched on for the entire duration of the match.

2. Rodri vs. Casemiro - The midfield battle

Manchester City went on a three-game losing streak after Rodri was suspended for three games for his foul on Morgan Gibbs-White. So important is the Spaniard to Guardiola's plans that they could barely conjure up results in his absence.

Casemiro, his opposite number, was a revelation for ten Hag last season despite his discipline issues. He is, however, yet to hit the same heights this season, which, in part, explains United's struggles this term.

Additionally, he is expected to be assessed late before the game to determine his availability after he sat out of the Sheffield United and Copenhagen wins.

Should the Brazilian not make it, ten Hag will need to find other ways to stifle Rodri - City's main highway of attacks and disruptive action.

3. Jeremy Doku vs. Diogo Dalot

Jeremy Doku has begun his life in the Premier League with a bang, proving to be a headache for fullbacks. So good has the Belgian been that he has managed to keep one of City's top performers last season, Jack Grealish, out of the team.

Ten Hag will be rueing Aaron Wan Bissaka's injury. There is no better defender at 1v1 tackles than the former Crystal Palace fullback.

Instead, Doku will have to contend with Diogo Dalot. The Portuguese's output going forward is decent, but he will be wary of leaving the pacy and tricky winger with too much space to thrive.

4. Erik ten Hag vs. Pep Guardiola

Social media users have often bantered this fixture as 'El Baldico'. But beneath those bald heads are two tactically astute managers who will be relishing the opportunity to go after each other again.

As BBC Sport reports, ten Hag will be seeking to become the first manager since Sir Alex Ferguson to win consecutive league games against Manchester City.

Ten Hag has tinkered with his formations in the past to get over the line, including playing his players out of position.

But when it comes to tinkering, no one does it better than Guardiola, whose idea to deploy John Stones in a hybrid midfield position last season worked wonders. With the defender now back to full speed, we might just see him line up alongside Rodri on Sunday.

The game should be fireworks either way!

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)
Erik Ten HaagPep Guardiola