Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United v Manchester City: Aguero's suspension puts United in the driving seat, insists McIlroy

By Adam McKendry

Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland midfielder Sammy McIlroy has claimed the absence of star striker Sergio Aguero will make Manchester United the favourites for tomorrow's eagerly-awaited Manchester derby.

McIlroy, who spent 13 years at Old Trafford, believes that the impact of the Argentine's suspension will weaken City and hand the edge to their fierce rivals.

Aguero received a three-match ban from the FA for striking West Ham's Winston Reid in their Premier League clash two weeks ago and, despite City's appeal against the offence, will miss tomorrow's massive game.

More: Premier League 2016/17: Manchester United v Manchester City, Liverpool v Leicester City, Arsenal v Southampton, Swansea v Chelsea

McIlroy feels that the striker's absence could be the difference between the two teams going into the clash.

"I think United are slight favourites, especially with Aguero missing for City," the former midfielder said.

"Aguero is one of the best strikers in the Premiership, no doubting that, and when he's not there it takes a lot away from Manchester City."

The 62-year-old also says the influx of new stars into the squad at Old Trafford has improved the team and has been a key factor in the Red Devils' recent improvement.

McIlroy, who made his United debut against City as a 17-year-old, pinpointed the centre of the team as an area of strength as the seasons hots up.

"United are on a bit of a run as well with Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) up front, (Paul) Pogba and (Eric) Bailly right down the spine with (David) De Gea in goal who's very strong and very confident," McIlroy said. "I think United have the slight edge on form, they've had slightly better performances, and I think the home advantage as well may just see them over the line.

"I think it'll be tight, but I can see United edging it."

The attention has also been on the renewed rivalry between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, who will meet for the first time in a competitive match since August 2013.

The two mercurial managers haven't seen eye to eye in the past, especially when they met in El Clasico as the bosses of Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.

McIlroy believes that the sub-plot of the managers' rivalry will add an extra element to an already heated derby.

"The rivalry between Mourinho and Guardiola will be there as well which adds that little bit of spice to it," he said.

"But derbies always are (full of tension), right through from the '70s when I played.

"They're a one-off game, on the day who takes their chances, who makes the least mistakes and who has a little bit of luck will win the game."

Even though he played for both teams, his time in the red half of Manchester means McIlroy's allegiance lies with United, who he thinks could be on their way back to winning ways.

"I think with Mourinho at the helm now, United have a fantastic chance of winning the Premiership," McIlroy added.

"This could be United's season."

Belfast Telegraph

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