Manchester City might have a few factors against them heading into Saturday’s eagerly anticipated derby with Manchester United, but they have a couple of less obvious points in their favour.
City are five competitive games into their season, owing to them having to navigate the Champions League play-off round, and they have won them all. That is two more outings than United and affords them some potential advantages.
Extra minutes in the legs can count for quite a lot this early in the season, so City may be sharper than their neighbours.
On top of that, the extra fixtures could give Pep Guardiola an edge over Jose Mourinho in the battle of the two new managers.
While Jose will still be finding out about his squad, his old nemesis from their days in Spain has had more of a chance to form a clearer picture of the playing resources at his disposal.
It’s going to be a massive game and, while not decisive in the title race at this early stage, is about building confidence and momentum.
Overall, however, I’m leaning towards a victory for Mourinho and United, probably by just the one goal, 1-0 or 2-1.
The absence of City striker Aguero through suspension is a great boost for the hosts. United look very good defensively, and they have the advantage of playing at Old Trafford.
I think they will have taken a huge amount from their last Premier League game, in which they pushed and pushed before finally breaking Hull’s resistance at the very end.
Last season they would not have won that game, but they found a way to get the three points. Mourinho has always been very good at that.
Sam Allardyce was misunderstood
It was strange to hear new England boss Sam Allardyce say after Sunday’s win over Slovakia that it wasn’t for him to dictate where Wayne Rooney played, but I think it might be a case of crossed wires.
While it might have sounded as though Allardyce was sending Rooney out without any instructions, I think what he was trying to say was that he is a good enough player to know his way around international football.
Having said that, I’d like to see Rooney in more advanced positions. He has shown he can still be effective there, for example taking on defenders to set up Marcus Rashford’s winner for Manchester United against Hull.
Against Slovakia, England ended up with two holding midfielders and Wayne Rooney playing in a similar to Toni Kroos for Germany.
He likes to have the play in front of him, but I think he should be confident enough to push on and receive penetrating passes with his goal back to goal – something that he probably hasn’t worked on enough.
Allardyce has plenty of time before England’s next game, against Malta in October, to think about that, and how to improve the team’s finishing, which still looks riddled with anxiety.
For now, though, he can be satisfied that he got the win in his first match in charge, which he really needed to do.