Derby day is upon us once more – Manchester City travel to Old Trafford to take on cross-town rivals Manchester United in the first of a two-legged affair in the Carabao Cup semi-final. Earlier in the season, two quick-fire United goals rocked the Blues as they came away from the Etihad with all three points.
Ahead of the game, we spoke to Jordan Clarke (@FourFourJordan) to get his thoughts on numerous topics. We discussed the situation surrounding midfielder Paul Pogba, January signings, who should take the number one spot and much more!
Jordan, thank you for joining us! The Paul Pogba situation seems to have taken a lot of attention amongst the media recently. What are your thoughts on the whole ordeal and do you believe he is being treated fairly?
I think, in all honesty, Paul Pogba should leave Manchester United for the sake of his own career and happiness. He’s heavily blamed for many of the deep-rooted problems at the club, despite having no part to play in them, and his presence in England allows people to create headlines surrounding him rather than focusing on the real issues.
The situation is similar to Mesut Özil at Arsenal. United have had problems before Pogba’s arrival in 2016, and they will continue to have them without him. Many thought ridding of Angel Di Maria was the right-step, yet that was evidence selling an underperforming star doesn’t fix a club overnight. To answer the question, I don’t think he’s being treated fairly by the media at all, and although he’s not perfect in terms of showing commitment or shutting down rumours, it’s tiring for me and many fans now to listen to, so I can’t imagine how he himself feels or Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
Manchester United have already lost out on one major reported transfer target, with Haaland moving to Dortmund – should the club move for anyone this month and who do you feel is best suited as well as a realistic option for the club?
In terms of Eric Braut Håland, I think not only did he make the correct decision for his career, but also for United too. A striker isn’t what the club need. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are perfectly able talents, however Solskjær’s side struggle to break down the opposition and feed the forward’s with the ball. Because of this, the focus should be on a midfielder, or possibly even two.
Whilst I don’t have specific names in mind, the club need to bring in a creative midfielder, either from a deep-lying position or a natural #10. Although he’s featured on the left for Aston Villa for the majority of this season, I’d love United to bring Jack Grealish in to bolster our options in January, but it’s unlikely given Villa already being in a relegation battle.
This season has been a bit of a mixed bag for United – your record against the top six isn’t actually all that bad, but against the so-called lesser teams, it’s less than respectable. What do you put this down to?
In terms of United’s record being better against the big sides, I’d refer to the point I’ve made previously about struggling to break down opposition. Against the ‘big six’ as they’re known, it’s unlikely these sides will sit back and allow United to have the ball, as they want to dominate possession themselves.
United are strongest when they form a deep-block and look to counter-attack on a disorganised opposition, and the best evidence of this was the win at the Etihad where Manchester City’s defence couldn’t live with the threat of Rashford, Martial and James. United don’t have enough quality on the ball to dominate teams who are happy to sit back and therefore playing the bigger sides allows us to play to our strengths.
After his showing against Wolves, is there now a serious case for Romero to take the number one spot over De Gea, or are people getting ahead of themselves and being too harsh on De Gea at the same time?
I think Sergio Romero has earned a chance in-between the sticks for United now, yes. The club have stuck by David De Gea at times, especially under José Mourinho, when he could have been dropped but his loyalty to the club was rewarded. However, allowing him to continue to start despite not performing simply based on previous performances doesn’t create the environment you want within a club, because competition is needed and right now, should De Gea start once more, Romero will feel unfairly treated. I don’t think it would be harsh on De Gea, as it’s profesional football and the highest level possible, so if United want to win anything or achieve success, worrying about the feelings of a goalkeeper is not the way to go.
What do you think the effect of the previous derby clash will be on Tuesday’s fixture?
I think, due to how strongly United played in the last clash, Pep Guardiola may be slightly more cautious, or at least set his side up to deal with the counter-attacking threat of Rashford, Martial and James better. At times, the space in the middle of the Etihad pitch was incredible, and United continued to venture into it. I think Solskjær will adopt the exact same big-game strategy as he always does, and therefore another thrilling game should hopefully be delivered.
And finally, your Manchester United line-up and score prediction?
Rather than an actual prediction of the starting eleven, I’ll give the one I’m hoping for, as Solskjær can be quite unpredictable with his selections, such as bringing Luke Shaw back in out of nowhere at times! So the side I’d like to see would be: Romero, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Maguire, Williams, Matić, Fred, Lingard, Rashford, Martial, James. In terms of a score-line prediction, I’m going to be optimistic and go for a United win, but with our current defensive record I think City will certainly score, so I’m predicting a thrilling 3-2 win.
You can follow our guest on twitter here: @FourFourJordan