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EFL Cup | United v City

Man Utd's strength played Man City's back-up in EFL Cup

Spanish journalist Guillem Balague caused a bit of a stir with his comments about Mourinho and Guardiola's midweek line-ups. Did he have a point about City's "juniors"?

Man Utd's strength played Man City's back-up in EFL Cup
David Rogers Getty Images

A questionable angle and better comparison

Much has been made this week of an opinion piece written by Guillem Balague following the Manchester derby in the EFL Cup where United beat City by a solitary goal from Spaniard, Juan Mata. Balague’s headline “Senior United side beats junior Manchester City in construction” caused the stir – especially as it didn’t take long to compare average ages of both sides which were virtually equal. But did the Spanish journalist have a point?

Senior and junior are terms that suggest age but they can also be used to determine maturity and experience and in sport they are often synonyms for first and second string. In this regard, the starting XIs that lined-up against each other have to be compared with what would be generally accepted as either manager’s strongest side. Although this is open to debate for many teams – where fans and so-called ‘experts’ in the game constantly disagree with the most effective selection from the squad available – we can gauge the respective manager’s view from form. And the Premier League, we know, is a high priority for both. So let’s look at Mourinho’s and Guardiola’s XIs sent out to face Southampton and Chelsea in their previous game and how those compared with the cup sides.

A comparison of the cup and recent league sides fielded by United and City.

A comparison of the cup and recent league sides fielded by United and City.

The difference was clear to see

The cup side sent out at Old Trafford by Pep was a complete transformation of his potentially ‘strongest’ available team - that seen in the league. Few people would argue that Southampton’s opposition was man-for-man a better side than that welcomed onto the pitch in the cup. Kompany kept his place with a view to improve the player's match fitness.

United on the other hand were close to repeating their ‘strongest’ side. Consider that Bailly and Smalling were unavailable due to injury – so would likely have started otherwise – therefore the only changes were Carrick in for Fellaini and Mata in for Lingard. Both of these can be seen as upgrades based on recent performances.

Manchester United's Michael Carrick

Manchester United's Michael Carrick seen by many as a first team starter.

So, forget age, forget price tag, and instead look at strength of starting XI versus available players. All the big-hitters were in for United, only one for City. Guillem may have had a point.