For the first time in its 136-year history, the Manchester derby will be played on foreign soil as United and City lock horns in Houston in the early hours of Friday morning.
The pre-season clash across the pond – which you can follow with our live blog on skysports.com and the Sky Sports apps – offers an early opportunity to catch a glimpse of the teams Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are assembling ahead of their quest to bring the Premier League title back to Manchester.
Mourinho insists the game is merely a „competitive training session“ but ahead of game at the NRG Stadium, we take a look how the sides might line up and what we might learn…
Lukaku & Rashford unleashed?
The latest meeting of the Premier League giants could mark the dawn of the United’s potential new strike partnership.
Romelu Lukaku came off the bench at half-time against LA Galaxy and marked his first start with a goal against Real Salt Lake, before being hooked at the interval.
The Belgian’s two 45-minute cameos have meant he is yet to feature alongside Marcus Rashford, but faced with chance to secure the early Manchester bragging rights, Mourinho could unleash the duo on City.
Having already started to build a relationship off the pitch with Lukaku, it’s a prospect Rashford is keen to transfer that into games.
„I think what I can learn from him and what we can learn from each other is when we play together,“ he said. „It is getting the relationship off the pitch and bringing it on to the pitch.“
City’s work in progress
After the first trophyless season of his managerial career, Guardiola has moved swiftly to address the areas of his side which were often exposed last term.
In what will be City’s first pre-season outing, we may get an insight into the potential remedies to the issues which plagued Guardiola’s debut campaign.
Summer signing Ederson could get the nod in goal as City look to draw a line under their struggles with Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero.
At the back, Kyle Walker’s arrival all but completes a defensive line boosted by Vincent Kompany new-found fitness. Guardiola remains keen to lure further reinforcements – but Sky sources understand City have had a £44.5m bid for left-back Benjamin Mendy rejected.
Bernardo Silva has not yet joined up with the City squad but Guardiola is likely to want to see how Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus can develop their partnership.
With United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward potentially in attendance, the pre-season fixture could present Mourinho with the opportunity to show United remain short of options across the park.
Despite capturing Lukaku and Victor Lindelof, the Portuguese has admitted United have struggled to get their business done in what’s been a „difficult market“ this summer.
The lack of activity saw elder statesman Michael Carrick partner Scott McTominay in midfield in the victory over Real Salt Lake, evidence the depth needed to mount a sustained title challenge is not yet at Mourinho’s disposal.
The Portuguese has been quick to play down the importance of the game, insisting it was nothing more than a competitive training session.
Defeat to their cross-city rivals, however, could provide a timely shot in the arm of those in control of the purse strings at Old Trafford.
Pep to persuade players?
Similar to his counterpart Mourinho, the performance and the outcome of the derby could play a role in Guardiola’s remaining transfer activity – the City boss has said he still wants up to four more signings this summer.
„We are talking with three or four players to try and get them to come to join us – not only for next season but for the next three, four or five years,“ he said. „They are all young players. We need that.“
With a number of deals yet to be finalised, the high-profile overseas derby presents Guardiola with the chance to display how his project is progressing at City, and could well play a role in getting those outstanding deals over the line.Euro Soccer Bonus
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