Man City vs Man Utd: Five pre-derby talking points including Haaland, Ronaldo & Grealish doubts

We look at five major questions fans will be discussing ahead of Sunday’s game.

Manchester City face Manchester United this weekend in what is one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the season.

The intrigue in the clash has only increased given the big gap in club football with the teams playing one Premier League match between them over the space of 28 days prior to the Manchester derby.

Both sides are in good form as well, with City unbeaten in the league this season and United winning four in a row.

But there are plenty of uncertainties heading into the game and several pre-match questions that fans will be debating among themselves.

We’ve picked out five major talking points in the build-up to the derby.

Can Martinez deal with Haaland?

The opening weeks of the season were dominated by talk of Lisandro Martinez’s physical stature and whether he is cut out to play in the Premier League.

Haaland will be hoping to net in his first Manchester derby. Credit: Getty.

He’s responded emphatically since then and played in every match of United’s four-game winning run in the Premier League.

But in those games he’s tended to come up against fast, nippy strikers, against whom Martinez tends to thrive. Erling Haaland will be a very different proposition and the Norwegian is a full 20 centimetres taller than the United defender.

Seeing how Martinez goes about dealing with the 22-year-old will be fascinating, although Pep Guardiola described the United defender as ‘fantastic’ and said he’s used to facing tall forwards in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, Haaland could become the first player to net three consecutive Premier League hat-tricks should he score three on Sunday.

The former Borussia Dortmund man also said United were the side he was most looking forward to facing when he signed for the Premier League champions in the summer.

Will Ronaldo start for United?

A lack of fitness for Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial means Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to start for United this weekend.

The striker endured a difficult international break and was criticised in his homeland after two disappointing displays for Portugal.

Ronaldo endured a frustrating international break. Credit: Getty.

It remains the ongoing question with Ronaldo since his return to Old Trafford: Does he help or hinder the team?

But against City, United will need to be organised, well drilled and press effectively, something Ronaldo simply can’t do.

He’s not really the striker suited to starting in this clash and Ten Hag’s only alternatives are to rush back Martial or Rashford, or operating with a false nine, something which had disastrous consequences in this fixture last season.

Can United attack the space behind?

United have a decent recent record at the Etihad and, prior to last season, had won three in a row at the stadium.

All three victories came during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time in charge, with the former striker boasting a decent record against Pep Guardiola as both managers won four each of their nine meetings.

Solskjaer often got the better of Guardiola in derby games. Credit: Getty.

Most of those successes were based around United being organised and attacking the space behind City’s back four. Despite being soundly beaten in this fixture last season, United did even have a few moments of joy on the break, most notable Jadon Sancho’s goal.

Erik ten Hag may choose to deploy similar tactics this weekend and United supporters will hope he can make the most of any defensive vulnerability from City.

Who will start for City?

While there are injury issues surrounding John Stones and Kalvin Phillips, Guardiola has plenty of options to choose from when selecting his team.

The Blues will almost certainly start with Ederson, Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, Erling Haaland and Phil Foden, but picking the other three is where things become murkier.

Manuel Akanji or Nathan Ake are likely to start at centre-back, while it will probably be Ilkay Gundogan or Bernardo Silva in the middle.

The latter is also an option to play on the wing, while Riyad Mahrez or Jack Grealish offer alternatives out wide.

Will Grealish respond?

Jack Grealish has featured heavily in the headlines recently and the spotlight was certainly on him after a disappointing display against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

He responded to that by netting the opener in the win over Wolverhampton Wanderers three days later and there’s plenty of interest in how he will perform this weekend.

Grealish played well in this fixture and he should be relatively fresh after featuring for just 20 minutes over the break.

But after admitting in the week that his performance levels have to improve for City, further questions will be asked if he fails to perform against United.