Manchester City vs. Manchester United: Key Players to Watch in Rivalry Match

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2013

Two bitter enemies will square off in an early Premier League fixture that will feel much more significant.

Manchester City and Manchester United will clash for the 166th time this Sunday, with United sporting the series advantage at 69-46-50.

Both teams are fixed at 2-1-1 this season, placing them in a tie for seventh place on the Premier League table. A win would do wonders for each squad's title chances while also claiming bragging rights for all their supporters.

Despite the magnitude of the match, Wayne Rooney tried to place the marquee game into perspective, calling Liverpool their biggest rival and reminding everyone that no Week 5 contest will decipher the championship. From The Telegrpah's Mark Ogden:

"It's a massive game between two title contenders," Rooney said. "It's not going to define the season, but it's a big game, a local derby."

Nevertheless, it's the biggest bout on this weekend's slate, so let's look at which players could swing this pivotal contest between geometric foes.


When: Sunday, Sept. 22 at 11:00 a.m. ET/4:00 p.m. BST

Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester

TV/Live Steam: NBC Sports Network


Key Players to Watch:


Wayne Rooney

He's playing it coy, but you know Rooney will come to play this Sunday.

The 27-year-old forward is on a tear, having notched one goal and two assists through three games. Through his last 44 Premier League contests, Rooney has scored or assisted 40 goals for United, leaving many to believe that he's pretty good at this football thing.

New manager David Moyes has revitalized his star by placing him in the striker role. Rooney recovered from a blow to the head last week to net a masterful free-kick in a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace.

If the veteran continues his scorching play, the Red Devils could ride his hot foot to a victory on Sunday.


Alvaro Negredo

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31: Alvaro Negredo of Manchester City takes on Tom Huddlestone of Hull City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Hull City at the Etihad Stadium on August 31, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Photo
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It's about time for Manuel Pellegrini to unleash the Beast.

Alvaro Negredo finally got a crack at City's starting lineup in a nil-nil draw against Stoke City, but he went right back to the bench in their ensuing Champions League match.

The forward has shown his capabilities in limited time, scoring two goals through four Premier League bouts while leading the team with eight shots. A potent attack that is tied for the league lead in goals does not operate at full capacity without Negredo on the field.

Although the Spaniard is a loose cannon whose rugged play does not always translate to the defensive side, he's too dangerous of a scorer to squander on the sideline. City will need him to keep up with United's ample offensive weapons.


Robin van Persie

The other half to United's fierce duo, Robin van Persie and Rooney are currently the Premier League's deadliest tandem.

With three goals through four contests, the 30-year-old is hardly playing second fiddle to Rooney. Both massive scoring threats mesh seamlessly together due to van Persie's gifted passing abilities.

When both stars are healthy and ready to lace up, there's little defenses can do to stop them. Manchester United Facts lives up to the Twitter name with an impressive statistic of their prowess together on the field. 

Look for these two to work together once more to slip a ball past City goalkeeper Joe Hart.