This weekend's Manchester derby is set to be a record breaker in more ways than one.
The most expensive match ever played, the most watched Premier League game ever, the most eagerly awaited derby match of all time, this weekend’s Manchester derby, has certainly caught the imagination of the football world.
That both United and City go into Saturday’s match with a 100 per cent record this season has certainly helped raise interest in the fixture, so too that the game represents the first meeting in English football for the two coaches, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola – thus renewing a rivalry that dates back to their days in Spain as coaches of Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.
Most expensive match ever
Maximum points from their opening three matches comes as no great surprise considering the vast sums lavished by both clubs in recent seasons. The 22 players expected to take the field at Old Trafford are worth over £670m in transfer fees. That constitutes a record, surpassing the previous most-expensive contest of £562m, when Barcelona thrashed Real Madrid 4-0 at the Bernabeu in the November 2015 El Clasico.
Manchester United have outspent their local rivals with a predicted starting XI costing £350.55m, including the world’s most expensive player, Paul Pogba, who returned to the club this summer for £93.25m from Juventus.
The Manchester City expected line-up cost the club £321.85m to build, with four players, Kevin de Bruyne (£54.5m), John Stones (£50m), Raheem Sterling (£49m) and Leroy Sane (£37m) accounting for nearly £200m of that figure in the last 14 months alone.
Ironically, the man favoured to open the scoring in the world’s richest match cost nothing at all: take a look at the odds with www.bestbettingsites.co.uk and you’ll see Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a short-priced 11-2 to score the first goal on Saturday. Three goals in his first three Premier League matches show that even at the age of 34, the iconic Swedish striker remains a force to be reckoned with.
Record TV audience
The 12.30pm kick-off is expected to capture the largest possible global audience, with the Premier League confirming what it calls its “household reach” stands at a record 901 million, a figure that does not take into account for multiple viewers in many of those homes or people watching in pubs and clubs. Could this be the first match in English football to attract a billion people?
In terms of global audience, the encounter is certainly predicted to eclipse the Manchester United-Liverpool fixture, which is traditionally regarded as the biggest match in the Premier League calendar.
The two managers have met before on 16 previous occasions, with Guardiola edging that match-up with seven wins to Mourinho’s three, with six matches finishing level. Significantly, given the testy relationship between the two men, there have been 10 red cards in their previous meetings – one of which was issued to Mourinho after a touchline blow up saw him sent to the stands.
Matters reached a head in 2011, during a period when the clubs faced each other four times in 17 days, when Guardiola reacted to Mourinho’s taunts with an uncharacteristically bad-tempered outburst.
“As Senor Mourinho has called me Pep, I’m going to call him Jose,” he said. “Tomorrow at 8.45pm we will face each other on the pitch. Off the pitch he’s won. He’s been winning off the pitch all season. Let them give him a Champions League for it so he can enjoy it and take it home. In the press room he is ‘el p* jefe’ (the f****** boss) and the one who knows more than everyone else.”
Whatever happens on the pitch on Saturday, the sub-plot on the sidelines could prove just as entertaining.