5 things to watch for in the first 5 minutes of the Manchester derby

It's the most anticipated Premier League match in years and there will be plenty to see in the opening moments of the Manchester derby.

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Source: Getty Images Europe

Claudio Bravo's very first touch

Has there ever been greater scrutiny on a goalkeeper's first possession in the history of the Premier League?

Bravo is likely to make his debut in the derby after taking over from England's number one, Joe Hart, who wasn't considered good enough with his feet for Pep Guardiola's possession based system. 

So in the opening minutes no doubt the ball will be passed back to the former Barcelona keeper and City's fans, and the English media, will get to see what all the fuss is about. 

Should Bravo played a perfect pass straight to the feet of one of City's midfielders and the break the initial line of pressure from United, fans of Guardiola will point and say the controversial move has been vindicated. 

Of course should he attempt a risky pass and have it intercepted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic who then goes on to score as a result you can expect every Guardiola-hater to lose their collective mind. Don't worry sections of the English media will join in for good measure. 

However what would be even funnier, and the least likely of these three scenarios, would be if Bravo booted the ball far up the field every time it was rolled back to him, trolling Joe Hart who will be watching at home in Turin scratching his head...and shoulders

The Guardiola-Mourinho handshake

Will they shake hands? Probably.

Will they make eye contact as they shake? Maybe.

Will Mourinho over-play it knowing that all the cameras are focused on them at that very moment? Certainly.

Arm-chair body language experts will look at this two second interaction and use it to diagnose both managers' mental state and their relationship.  

Given the United manager once poked his opposite number in the eye - from behind - Guardiola might be best off keeping his distance. 

How does City attack line up?

With Sergio Aguero suspended, Guardiola must decide between playing 19-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho or deploying a false 9. 

Iheanacho has impressed in his limited appearances - five goals in his last four Premier League starts - but is yet to start in the Premier League under Guardiola. 

Of course this is Pep so don't be surprised if he plays a midfielder in every position, or if he inverts his full-backs so much that they become reverse-false-second-strikers.

Does Mkhitaryan start?

The attacking midfielder scored 23 goals and produced an even more ridiculous 32 assists for Borussia Dortmund last season. He cost United $62 million. Despite all this he's still yet to start a match under Mourinho. 

Juan Mata has started on the right side of an attacking three behind Ibrahimovic in the first three matches, while under-pressure Wayne Rooney has played through the middle. Either could make way for the Armenian whose electrifying pace could trouble City's high defensive line. 

If Ibrahimovic scores will he celebrate in front of Pep?

Zlatan and Pep fell out spectacularly when they were together at Barcelona in 2010. So should the big Swede score, will we see him rub it in the nose of the man he described as a spineless coward? 

This fixture has a history of controversial celebrations by divisive characters, like Carlos Tevez in 2010. 


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3 min read
Published 9 September 2016 at 2:55pm
By Nick Stoll