Ever since Manchester City became flush with money and turned into a competitor, the Manchester derby had always had an edge, a meaning, a lot more than just two local rivals clashing. That meaning, edge and rivalry will hit stratospheric levels when Manchester United host Man City at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The afternoon kickoff is the most highly anticipated match of the season so far, not just because this is a game between two local and title rivals, but because this is the first time Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho will go head to head since taking over at City and United respectively.
Mourinho and Guardiola have had a storied rivalry, with the two managers not exactly showing a great liking for each other. The fact that the two high-profile coaches have been in different leagues over the past few years has dimmed that rivalry a little, but the let's-get-ready-to-rumble switch will be turned on to full blast when Guardiola walks into Mourinho's new den on Saturday.
While all the talk in the buildup to this match will be about the two managers – understandable considering their standing in the game and their rivalry – when the referee blows the opening whistle, hopefully, it will be about matters on the pitch.
One of the men who will want to make an impact will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic, another one of the subplots in this ever-intriguing Manchester derby. Ibrahimovic has not minced words over his treatment by Guardiola in his time at Barcelona, and so the Swede, who has made a wonderful start to his Manchester United career, will have a point or four to prove.
A tuned-in Ibrahimovic is never a good thing for a defender, so it will be fascinating to see how John Stones, the man who Manchester City paid a fortune for to get him from Everton, copes with the former PSG striker's threat.
Most of the threat from Manchester United's perspective is expected to come from wide positions, with balls into the box looking for Ibrahimovic to use his skills. If City can cut that threat out, they will take a major weapon away from this Mourinho-era Manchester United, because, with Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney in the No.9 and No.10 positions, pace is not exactly their forte.
For Guardiola, this match will be about taking control by controlling possession. However, possession alone is not likely to win City the game, because Manchester United have been outstanding at the back in the first three Premier League games, conceding just one goal – it is after all a Mourinho team now.
The likes of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne will need to be at their creative best to find a way through this Mourinho-drilled defence, while Guardiola will hope Raheem Sterling and Nolito have got their scoring boots on in the absence of the suspended Sergio Aguero.
Everywhere you look, there is a fascinating battle to look forward to, and who knows, this might just be the match that Paul Pogba announces himself in a Manchester United shirt following his world record move from Juventus.
Now, that would definitely be a headline grabber.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City. The home team get an early goal on the counter, and after loads and loads of possession, City equalise in the second half.
Manchester derby schedule: Manchester United vs Manchester City.
Date: Saturday, Sep.10.
Time: 12.30 p.m. local, 5 p.m. IST, 7.30 a.m. ET.
Venue: Old Trafford.
TV listings: India: Star Sports 2 and Star Sports Select HD2. UK: Sky Sports 1. USA: NBCSN and Telemundo. Australia: SBS One and Optus Sport. Singapore: Eleven. Malaysia: Astro Super Sport. Thailand, Middle East, North Africa, New Zealand: Bein Sports. China: QQ Sports and PPTV. South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa: SuperSport 3. Canada: Sportsnet.