Manchester United vs Manchester City: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle looks at three key players to watch out for in the game between Manchester United and Manchester City.

The second half of the 2022/23 Premier League season has begun, with Aston Villa beating Leeds United on Friday. And the action on Saturday will begin with the highly-anticipated Manchester Derby featuring Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford.

Manchester City’s defence of the Premier League title has not gone swimmingly. The Citizens have dropped points in five of their 17 outings thus far, quite uncharacteristic for a Pep Guardiola side. And Manchester City prepared for the game against Manchester United in the worst possible manner, losing to Southampton in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.

On the other hand, Manchester United’s fortunes have improved drastically in the last few months. The Red Devils began the campaign with back-to-back defeats to Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford. But no other team has garnered more points than Erik ten Hag’s men since they faced Liverpool in August.

The contrasting run of forms sets up an intriguing Manchester Derby. While Manchester City will still be the favourite to win the game, Manchester United will be well-placed to clinch the three points. And ahead of the mouthwatering clash at Old Trafford, The Hard Tackle lists three key players for the game.

Marcus Rashford

Will Rashford deliver the goods again for Manchester United? (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Our first pick is one of the most in-form players in the Premier League right now. We are talking about Marcus Rashford, who has become a talismanic figure for Manchester United in the 2022/23 season.

The English international had seen his stock drop considerably after an underwhelming 2021/22 campaign. But Rashford is seemingly making up for lost time this term, enjoying arguably the most prolific season of his professional career.

The 25-year-old was Manchester United’s Player of the Month for December. And he recently equalled Wayne Rooney’s record for scoring in eight successive games at Old Trafford. Since then, Rashford has spoken about looking up to Manchester United’s all-time top scorer. And he will have done a fabulous job if he emulates Rooney in the Manchester Derby on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola needs to devise a plan keeping Rashford in mind. And the Manchester United attacker can potentially overcome the Manchester City challenge if the visitors do not remain alert throughout the game.

Bernardo Silva

Serie A giants AC Milan remain keen on securing Manchester City star Bernardo Silva and are targeting him in the January transfer window
Bernardo Silva tends to reserve his best for the biggest games. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The next player on our list is the man for the big occasions for Manchester City. We are talking about Bernardo Silva, who, more often than not, delivers the goods in the most clutch situations for the reigning Premier League champions.

The 28-year-old has arguably been Manchester City’s best player since expressing his desire to leave in the summer transfer window of 2021. And it is hardly surprising that high-profile clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid are interested in him.

As for the matters on the pitch, Silva might start as a no. 8, even though Pep Guardiola usually prefers him on the right wing in the biggest games. The Portuguese international will have the best vantage point to pick apart the Manchester United defence in the midfield role.

At the same time, Silva’s revered work rate should come through, especially with Casemiro running riot lately. So the 28-year-old playmaker will offer a twin-pronged solution to tackling Manchester United in both phases of the game. A big match beckons the former AS Monaco man, who might be playing his final Manchester Derby amid interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Lisandro Martinez

While Erling Haaland will invariably be the man under the spotlight on Saturday, we have picked the player who will need to pull out all the stops to keep the Norwegian striker quiet. We are, of course, talking about the brilliant Lisandro Martinez.

The Argentine international has taken to the Premier League like a fish to water. That is despite a gamut of naysayers being the detractors in his early days with Manchester United. But Martinez has shown that size does not matter if a player has got his basics sorted.

The 24-year-old defends on the front foot, which should come in handy in neutralising Haaland’s qualities. The Norwegian striker tends to ghost past the strikers with his bursting runs. But with Martinez likely to mark Haaland exclusively, the young striker will need to go into the reserves to make his mark.

Haaland had it easy in the reverse fixture at the Etihad a few months ago when Manchester City smashed Manchester United. But Martinez will be at hand to ensure that the 22-year-old does not have another field at the Red Devils’ expense. And the hosts might clinch the three points if the Argentine defender is at his best.

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