Two of the four sides with perfect Premier League records meet at the KCOM on Saturday evening as Mike Phelan comes up against the club he served for almost two decades as a player and most famously as Sir Alex Ferguson’s number two. On paper you would struggle to find a larger mismatch in one division, yet City’s players have illustrated (so far) that success on the pitch isn’t necessarily determined by the value of your squad.
Although the Tigers unexpectedly triumphed against Leicester and Swansea, the challenge posed by Manchester United is an altogether different one. Jose Mourinho is seldom guilty of underestimating an opponent and will be wary of the qualities City possess. These are early days, but United look far more of a threat this season than they did in the last campaign under Louis Van Gaal. Having a fully fit squad to choose from also helps – what Mike Phelan would give for that.
Harry Maguire returned to the first team in the win at Exeter on Tuesday night and may provoke Phelan’s first selection dilemma of the season. City’s caretaker manager may be reluctant to alter the centre-back pairing of Jake Livermore and Curtis Davies given their outstanding performances in the previous two league fixtures, however. Abel Hernandez is likely to return up front alongside Adama Diomande having missed the cup tie midweek. Josh Tymon and Greg Luer both suffered injuries on Tuesday, limiting City’s options on the substitute’s bench even further.
World record signing Paul Pogba completed 90 minutes for United in the victory over Southampton last Friday so we should expect him to take centre-stage once again. City will of course be wary of the man known simply as ‘Zlatan’, the Swede quickly silencing doubters with four goals in three games to open his stint in England. Wayne Rooney boasts an impressive record against City with seven goals in his last five appearances, so Mike Phelan’s experience could prove invaluable in limiting his threat.
As you would expect the history books point to an away win, with the last eight league meetings producing seven United wins and a solitary draw. If you fancy City to defy all logic and defeat Mourinho’s side, the bookies are offering 13/2 on a home win, while Manchester United are as short as 1/2 to continue their perfect start to the season.