Derby scoring record casts Man United star as City match winner

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There are a vast array of ways to slice the first Manchester derby of the season this coming Saturday.

You could focus on any number of pricey new purchases for either team, for example. Alternatively there’s the renewal of battle lines between fabled arch enemies Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

The pair once warred as managers of Real Madrid and Barcelona and will now butt heads as the respective head honchos of the Red Devils and Citizens.

But in reality there’s only one man the game will focus on: attention magnet Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swede had a bit of extra time during the international break, having retired from the Blagult after Euro 2016, and prepared by posting a fire-stoking video on his Facebook page.

Sending new City keeper Claudio Bravo some Zlatan-branded training gear, the multi-league-winning striker welcomed the Chilean to Manchester and told him to get practising ahead of the weekend’s clash.

That confidence is hardly surprising considering a) this is Zlatan we’re talking about and, b) his three-in-three start in front of goal for United.

The 34-year-old’s chest should swell further over his scoring record in “classic” matches for his many former clubs too, where he averages better than a goal every other game.

Experience of playing in some of the biggest encounters in Europe, like Spain’s El Clasico and the Derby d’Italia, will certainly help the ice-cool frontman feel even more relaxed than normal. But scoring 20 times in those 36 league outings should have him expecting a goal.

Le Classique in France was Zlatan’s clear favourite, scoring seven goals in eight games for Paris Saint-Germain against Marseille.

At the start of his career, he scored three-in-six for Ajax against Feyenoord and two-in-five versus PSV.

A later quirk of playing for every big team in Italy meant he had plenty of exposure to even more derbies. In total he featured in 16 Derby della Madonnina (Inter v AC) and Derby d’Italia (Juventus v Inter) matches, scoring seven times.

A feud with Guardiola (there’s another storyline to watch) restricted him to just one league Clasico for Barcelona but, true to form, he scored.

We go 4/1 that Zlatan bags the first of the match in the newest entry on his classics CV, and 5/4 for a goal at anytime.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.