Friday, March 31, 2023

Manchester United Star Doubtful For The Derby – Who Should Replace Him?

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Aakarsh Bommakanti
Was diving around lush green grass not so long ago but my keyboard is all I have now. An avid observer of detail in sports with a passion to make myself heard. Can find me playing on a field if not in front of my screen.

Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, the rivalry that produced a number of unforgettable clashes a few years ago in Spain are now set to face off this weekend in a completely new set up. The duo who are now in charge of two of the biggest clubs in England, situated in Manchester, will face off, in one of the games of the season in an early kickoff on Saturday. Both teams have had great starts to their campaign, winning their first three games and both teams will hope that they can come out of this game with a victory and a 3 point gap over their rivals.

Manchester City will miss Sergio Aguero for this game as the Argentine will serve the first of a 3-match ban for his miss-conduct in the previous game. And Jose Mourinho may now miss out on one of his first team stars according to recent reports. Antonio Valencia, who has done a superb job for the side this season will only return to training with the squad on Friday, less than 24 hours from the derby, from international duty, and is said to be doubtful for the game. This will leave Mourinho with a big decision to make in his first crunch tie in the new season.

The 31-year old Ecuador international has been a strong presence at the back for the club this season and has also provided width in attack that has helped Manchester United get the better of teams in the first three games. He has not missed a single minute of the new Premier League season and has been a part of a defence that has shipped just one goal away so far this season. He will be a big loss but the manager has plenty of options to cover for his absence. The most obvious option to replace the 31-year old will be the Italian right back who has fallen out of favor at the club. Matteo Darmian, who travelled with the squad for the game against Hull but was not even given a place in the bench was fruitful for the club in that position in the previous season.

However, Mourinho has not favored the Italian this season even in the pre-season and might look at other alternatives. Phil Jones and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are the other two defenders in the team who can take the spot. Jones is a decent option but is more of a centre-back with some experience in that position while Fosu-Mensah might be an option if he has impressed the manager enough. Either of the players will provide the defensive stability that is needed against a free-flowing attack like Manchester City but neither will be able to add to their attack which might have its effect on the outcome of the game.


Another change that Mourinho can make is to bring back Chris Smalling into a centre-back position (or Phil Jones) and shift Daley Blind into a full-back area. The Dutch international is a versatile player who can play in any of the defensive positions and this can allow Mourinho to shift him onto the left-back position with Luke Shaw, who is currently occupying the left-back spot shifted onto the right.

The fact that Mourinho has up to 3 options for one position on the field shows the success he has had in the transfer window. He will however hope that that Antonio Valencia will be back with the squad in no time. But for now, if he does indeed miss the derby, Mourinho has enough cover to get out of the game unscathed. Who do you think should play in place of Valencia should he not make the cut come Saturday?

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