Manchester United announced the signing of Romelu Lukaku from Everton earlier this week, while Victor Lindelof joined from Benfica last month; in terms of outgoings, attacking players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney have both departed Old Trafford, the latter to re-join boyhood club Everton. The Red Devils finished the last Premier League season in sixth spot, a disappointing outcome that was somewhat forgotten thanks to their triumph in the Europa League. A return to the top four is a must this time around, though, with Mourinho likely to be eyeing his fourth Premier League title – and his first with United.
Manchester City came flying out the blocks in the transfer market, snapping up Bernardo Silva shortly after the culmination of the 2016/17 campaign and adding goalkeeper Ederson to the ranks soon after. Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker could be next through the door at the Etihad Stadium, although Pep Guardiola was left disappointed by Dani Alves’ decision to join Paris Saint-Germain instead of City. There is therefore still plenty of work to be done before the new Premier League season gets under way in a few weeks’ time, but Guardiola will be confident of improving upon last year’s third-place finish as the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach seeks to win his first piece of silverware with his current employers.
Mourinho has left Adnan Januzaj, Sam Johnstone, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Guillermo Varela at home, but Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are part of the travelling party despite rumours linking the defensive duo with moves away from Old Trafford. Lukaku is in line to be handed his first United appearance against English opposition, while Lindelof will also be keen to impress. New club captain Michael Carrick could anchor the midfield, and the likes of Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will all want to make a statement after being criticised by their manager at times last term.
Guardiola will be without Bernardo Silva and Claudio Bravo, who have both been given additional time off after their participation in the Confederations Cup in Russia. Joe Hart, Eliaquim Mangala, Samir Nasri and Wilfried Bony have all returned to the club following loan spells elsewhere, but given that all four members of the quartet are unfancied by their manager, it would be a major surprise to see any of them feature. Ilkay Gundogan has returned to training following injury, meanwhile, but this derby game in the United States will probably come a little bit too soon for the Germany international’s comeback.
This is a difficult game to predict, largely because both managers will be concerned with performance more than result. With that in mind, then, perhaps the best option is backing a draw at the NRG Stadium on Friday. Another wager worth considering is over 2.5 goals to be scored, while Lukaku is the obvious choice to find the back of the net anytime.