Tonight’s derby between Manchester United and Manchester City perhaps represents one of the most important games of the season. It’s a game with so much on the line, including pride, a title race and a Champions League spot. It comes at such a crucial time in the season, where neither team can afford to slip up.
Obviously, both teams will be heavily reliant on their star players providing a solid performance. There’s no denying that while both have looked shaky at the back throughout the season, they have also shown off their bodacious best in attack.
None characterise this more than Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashsford. The England internationals have been devastating at points in the season. But who would come out on top in a battle between the two?
Let’s analyse both below.
What a season it has been for the 24-year-old attacker. Sterling endured a tricky spell after first completing a whopping £49m move from rivals Liverpool. However, under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, Sterling has emerged as one of the brightest talents in world football.
It was last season that we started to see Sterling’s scintillating best, scoring 18 and assisting 11 in the league – hugely impressive stats for a player predominantly based on the wing. His form has continued to flourish, this season netting 17 and assisting 9 with four games remaining.
It’s not just the stats, though. Sterling has stood up and transformed himself into a real leader within the City and England squad alike. Where he was previously under much scrutiny for England, he has now finally started to prove himself on an international stage. A terrific hat-trick against the Czech Republic the moment he truly transcended into elite level.
Sterling was also highly influential and desperately unlucky in City’s recent Champions League exit at the hands of Tottenham. The composure he showed in his late (ruled out) ‘winner’ highlighting the improvements he has made. Where Sterling was once known as wasteful in front of goal, the attacker can now be deemed as nothing less than clinical.
The Englishman, over the last two seasons, has raised his game to a new level. Who knows the level he can eventually reach. He’s currently valued at £108m (TransferMarkt), but it would likely take a lot more than that to see Sterling move away from Manchester.
TT Grade: A+
Rashford has made such an impact in recent years, making it easy to forget that he’s still only 21. The striker was granted his debut, aged only 18, by former United manager Louis Van Gaal. The Englishman took the opportunity with both hands, scoring twice as a substitute against Midtjylland.
The naturally gifted forward has never looked back, remaining a member of the first team squad ever since. Despite arguably not getting enough game time under the management of Jose Mourinho, Rashford has shone since the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 10 goals and 6 assists in 29 appearances proves a valiant return for such a young player.
Perhaps the greatest compliment the youngster has received from the Norwegian manager is that he has, at times, kept £75m Romelu Lukaku out of the team.
Despite promising so much at the beginning of his United Career, Rashford arguably hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. Yes, he’s very young. And yes, he shows maturity beyond his years. But 27 goals in 107 Premier League games is perhaps not the greatest return. Putting it into perspective, Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City has the same number of goals in 42 fewer appearances.
At this point in time, his stats to keep him below the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Gabriel Jesus as the top young forwards in world football. Who knows, however. Rashford could continue to progress beyond his rivals.
TT Grade: A-
There we have it. Sterling wins this one. Where a couple of years ago, Rashford would most certainly have been touted as the bigger prospect, this one now belongs with Sterling.
However, it has to be said that Rashford is three years younger and could easily be at the same level, if not higher, in years to come.
United and City fans, which player has more potential? Will Rashford have reached Sterling’s level in a few years time? Comment below.