Manchester United vs Manchester City: Three players who must start

by Leo Nieboer

It is not an exaggeration to say that Sunday’s Manchester derby could essentially decide the fate of this season’s title race.

A defeat would see Manchester City stretch their lead to the top to 11 points while victory would take Manchester United to within five points of Pep Guardiola’s men whilst instilling a wider belief that the league leaders are, in fact, beatable.

Jose Mourinho confirmed ahead of the game that Phil Jones, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Nemanja Matic would all start, adding that Marouane Fellaini faces a late fitness test.

With that in mind, here are three players who the 54-year-old must start on Sunday afternoon.

Romeu Lukaku

There isn’t a better time for the Belgian to silence those claiming he can’t deliver in big games. His goal in mid-week would have given him a massive confidence boost and he scored against Man City in both games last season.

Supporters will want to see him stretch the injury prone Vincent Kompany as much as possible at Old Trafford.

Jesse Lingard

Man United’s last two Premier League games have seen the Englishman discover a new lease of life in the first team under Mourinho, producing nimble, penetrative displays at No.10 in a 3-4-1-2 system.

And with the visitors set to dominate the ball his presence will be crucial when it comes to launching precise counter-attacks. There would be nothing sweeter than seeing Lingard’s ‘Milly Rock’ serving as the symbol of Man City’s superb run in the Premier League coming to an end.

Ashley Young

One clear advantage United have over their neighbours is aerial presence in the box, especially with Matic, Ibrahimovic and possibly even Fellaini set to feature. The best way to unhinge City’s core could be to make this a truly gritty, physical encounter, with bodies piling into the box at every opportunity.

This makes Young’s superb crossing ability, which has seen him claim three assists from left back this season, hugely important on Sunday. His experience of games of such magnitude and love for the big occasion feels necessary as well.

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