Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho has admitted that the absence of Paul Pogba will serve as a big boost for Pep Guardiola’s side on Sunday.
The Frenchman picked up a straight red card during Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Arsenal last weekend and will miss the derby, along with games against AFC Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion, as a result.
Jose Mourinho will most likely line up with Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic, who he confirmed would start following Tuesday’s 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow.
And Fernandinho, speaking ahead of the game, noted that Man United would be weaker without the 24-year-old’s presence at Old Trafford.
“Any team that loses such a good player, they are going to miss him,” he said. “But Manchester United have good players and it doesn’t matter who is going to play in his position, they will do a good job.
“It will be a tough game for both teams. The people around the club, when we start to win a lot of games, they start to say a lot of things and it’s not good. Some of us could relax and drop our levels.
“So if you have to choose a moment to lose then this would be the right one. Now we are heading back to the UK to start to prepare for the game on Sunday.
“Derbies are always special. We need to be 100 per cent ready and focused to do our best and try to win the game.”
Man United beat Arsenal primarily because of the sheer speed with which they transitioned between defence and attack.
Needless to say, Pogba was the main conduit for this attacking plan, driving forward with intent and picking out the perfect pass every time – until that moment of madness.
And Mourinho, in response, will need to find a way of maintaining his side’s speed and efficiency on the break if they are to unhinge the visitors and prevent them from getting comfortable inside their half on Sunday. The likes of Jesse Lingard, Matic and Herrera, with the help of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, will need to be proactive.
That said, any side without Pogba in their starting XI will be considerably weaker, regardless of how you spin it.