Jose Mourinho vs. Pep Guardiola: Man United and City manager watch
Manchester United and Manchester City landed two of the biggest managers in the game this summer. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola will resume their battle in the Premier League and ESPN FC is keeping a close eye on them.
Our correspondents Arindam Rej (United) and Jonathan Smith (City) bring us the latest weekly look at what both men have been saying.
Weekend match expectations
Arindam Rej: A hotly-anticipated derby match awaits and, if any team is to be considered favourites, it should -- marginally -- be United, who have home advantage on their side and with Sergio Aguero suspended for City. In his pre-game press conference, Jose Mourinho tried to play down the significance of the Argentine's absence, saying that it would make life more difficult for his team. While it is true that the hosts will find it harder to predict City's approach, nobody should be fooled by the United boss' words.
Jonathan Smith: It's the game the whole world has been waiting for ever since Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho were confirmed as managers on opposite sides of Manchester. The clash with United is Guardiola's toughest test of his short period in charge at City after a perfect five wins from five. But the Catalan won't be intimidated about stepping into the Old Trafford cauldron to renew his rivalry with Mourinho and will set out to claim all three points. City will try to control possession throughout and the game will be an indicator of how quickly the players have grasped Guardiola's tactical revolution.
Best news conference quote
AR: (Mourinho on his relationship with Guardiola) "It's a problem? You don't need my answer. I don't care about everyone else. Players, just the players."
JS: "In Barcelona-Real Madrid every year was the most beautiful, the best in the world. Let me live this derby and after I can tell you how it can compare with Spain, Barcelona-Madrid and Germany, Munich-Dortmund. For the millions on both sides I think it is quite similar, a lot of people talking about good things and bad things and that is nice."
Biggest current issue to solve
AR: Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan helped change the game in United's last outing, when they snatched a 1-0 win at Hull. That means there is a case to be made for one, or both, to be included in the starting line-up. The question for Mourinho is how he would be able to do that and who he would omit. Mkhitaryan might not be fit enough to play the full 90 minutes, the United manager said on Friday, although he said something similar about Paul Pogba before last month's Southampton game.
JS: Sergio Aguero's ban is a big and unnecessary blow going into the derby and Guardiola has a tough decision over who will replace him. The Argentine has started the season in his usual blistering fashion with six goals in four games and leaves a big hole to fill. Guardiola has options and teenage striker Kelechi Iheanacho would seem the most obvious replacement. But the Nigerian's rawness and inexperience may prompt Guardiola to shuffle his side around with Nolito or Leroy Sane coming in to play a more central role.
AR: The bond between players and fans was shown at the end of the last-gasp win at Hull when they raucously celebrated together. There was much talk of it being an occasion reminiscent of the days of "Fergie time" goals. That match, though, showed not all will be plain sailing in this campaign. Having to wait for so long to beat a newly-promoted side highlighted that United need to think about whether they are picking the right players in attack.
Fan rating: 8/10
JS: United's summer splurge on Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic suggests the two clubs are on a similar level for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford. So, after the phoney war in China in preseason was cancelled, a derby victory would feel like a significant early blow. There are so many intriguing battles on the pitch -- John Stones vs. Ibrahimovic, David Silva vs. Pogba, Raheem Sterling vs. Luke Shaw -- not to mention the rivalry in the dugouts. It promises to be nervy 90 minutes for both sets of supporters but there's added excitement for City with potential debuts for new arrivals Ilkay Gundogan, Claudio Bravo and Sane.
Fan rating: 10/10