Here we go, then… the 172nd Manchester derby is upon us.
Does it fill you with dread, or is this one of the dates circled twice on your calendar? Either way, there’s no escaping derby day chat as Manchester stands divided in camps red and blue.
Club Journalist @markbooth_mcfc picks out five things to look out for in Saturday lunchtime’s clash…
1 Up Front
No doubt the first place City fans’ eyes will scan to on the teamsheets when they’re released at 11.30am on Saturday will be the striker position.
Don’t expect too many clues from Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press briefing on Friday – the Catalan is known for keeping his cards close to his chest when it comes to team selection.
Guardiola has plenty of options when it comes to replacing the banned Sergio Aguero.
The most conventional, like-for-like swap would see Kelechi Iheanacho start up front but our boss is not shy of thinking outside of the box when it comes to the way he lines up his teams.
As the man who brought the “False 9” position back into vogue with Lionel Messi and Barcelona, don’t be too surprised if he chooses to go for something like this on Saturday.
Kevin De Bruyne has played there before, while Leroy Sane and Nolito also look like ready-made options to function in that role if Pep deems this the best way to achieve victory.
2 Pep v Mou
There’s no getting away from it, the two men in the dugout will command much of the focus and the column inches in hours leading to the game.
Their El Clasico bouts created one of the great sporting rivalries of recent times and the renewal of this duel is one of the major reasons why pundits are now describing Manchester as the city at the centre of the footballing world.
How do their records against one another stack up? There’s no question Guardiola has had the better of the past meetings…
The man in the Old Trafford corner has won three of 16 meetings with Pep (D6 L7) - in La Liga and the Copa Del Rey with Real Madrid and in the Champions League with Inter (all vs Barcelona).
Those past precedents won’t count for a whole lot on Saturday, however, when their new teams lock horns for the first time for both managers’ first Manchester derby.
3 The Break
What effect will the international break have on the team Pep puts out on Saturday afternoon?
Both Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan have returned to full training and are in line for debuts while it’s being rumoured that Vincent Kompany could come back into contention following his lengthy lay-off.
With Nicolas Otamendi and Pablo Zabaleta travelling back from South America after two World Cup qualifiers and with Aleksandar Kolarov and fit-again Bacary Sagna both training at CFA throughout the break, will this be a factor in the defence Pep chooses to put out?
We’re going to have plenty to discuss in the hour between the teams being announced and the first peep of referee Mark Clattenburg’s whistle.
4 Something's Got To Give
City and United both boast 100% records through their first three league games of the season and this has only happened once before in league history.
The season? 2011/12… and we all know how that panned out.
In addition, Pep is the first City boss to win his first five games in charge of the club, while Mourinho is the first manager to win his first four games in charge of United.
One way or another, either City or United’s perfect starts are coming to an end on Saturday afternoon and, while it’s way, way too early to be considered even pivotal in the final Premier League standings, one side could land a decisive psychological blow in the early running.
5 50 Up
Victory for City at Old Trafford would give the Blues their 50th derby day victory in all competitions.
Last time these teams met with new managers in both dugouts, Manuel Pellegrini’s City overcame David Moyes’ United 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium.
It’s all set up for one epic showdown and ManCity.com is your best bet for all of the build-up, the live Match Day Centre running from Saturday morning and all of the reaction following the game.