Two former Bundesliga stars are relishing the opportunity to make their mark on the Manchester derby when third-placed United hosts Premier League leader City at Old Trafford.
Bastian Schweinsteiger ended a 17-year association with Bayern Munich to join United in July, while Kevin De Bruyne has continued the form that made him Bundesliga player of the year last term at Wolfsburg since becoming City’s record signing.
Despite his lengthy spell with Bayern, Schweinsteiger rarely got a taste of cross-town hostilities due to the ailing fortunes of neighbors 1860 Munich, which shares a ground with the Bundesliga champion, but have not competed in Germany’s top flight since 2003-04.
“I am definitely looking forward to the derby against City,” the Germany captain told United Review. “I think it is something very special and we should be very happy that we have two big clubs in one city that are also playing in the Champions League.
“I remember when I was in Munich we were always looking for that, but the other team at 1860 Munich didn’t play so well. We were always looking for a derby but it was sadly not possible. Here, we can play lots of derbies and I am very happy about that.”
Schweinsteiger faces an anxious wait to see whether he will be selected in Louis van Gaal’s customary central midfield two having been substituted at halftime in Wednesday’s 1-1 Champions League draw against CSKA Moscow.
By contrast, De Bruyne is set to be central to Manuel Pellegrini’s plans to avenge City’s 4-2 defeat at Old Trafford in August, having scored five times in seven starts for a team that will be without the considerable attacking firepower provided by Sergio Aguero (hamstring) and David Silva (ankle).
The 24-year-old Belgium international is keen to pile the pressure onto United with a victory that would open up a five-point gap between the two, while bringing further cheer to supporters who have instantly warmed to him.
“In the end it is just three points, so if you win or lose there it doesn’t change a lot,” he said.”But if we can win there we will put a little bit of pressure on them.
“For the fans it is one of the biggest games. If we can win there, you know how it goes, our supporters will talk to them for half the season until the next game. Hopefully we can win this one because it is a big deal for them.”
Despite his free-scoring exploits, De Bruyne insists he has not allowed himself to daydream about being a potential derby day hero.
“Not for a moment,” he said. “It doesn’t matter really, in the end.
“If I am involved in the game I will be happy. It doesn’t matter if you score or do nothing – the most important thing is to get the three points.”
Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph (both hamstring) and Gael Clichy (ankle) remain unavailable to Pellegrini, who must ponder whether to restore captain Vincent Kompany to the starting lineup and make a call between Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna at right back.
Luke Shaw (broken leg) and Paddy McNair (liver) are the only remaining injuries for Van Gaal to deal with, although the 170th Manchester derby comes too soon for Ashley Young (calf).
Key Opta Stats
– Wayne Rooney has scored 11 goals in Manchester derbies across all competitions, more than any other player in the history of the fixture.
– City has won six of the past eight Premier League derbies, having won six of the prior 42 matches against United.
– Since a 0-0 draw at the Etihad Stadium in November 2010, City has won seven and United five of the subsequent 12 derbies in all competitions.
– City is aiming for their 50th competitive win in the Manchester derby (W49 D50 L69)
– Manuel Pellegrini’s team have had the most shots on target (74) and allowed the fewest on their own goal (24) so far in the Premier League this season.