‘We’ve got some fantastic individuals’: Rudan backs stars to shine in United’s first Melbourne Derby
There’ll be some serious star power on show when Western United host Melbourne City in the club’s first-ever local derby on Sunday afternoon.
And coach Mark Rudan is confident it will be his key men that help can help swing the match in United’s favour, and lay down the first marker for supremacy in Melbourne.
Both United and City are unbeaten in the Hyundai A-League and reside in the top four on four points after a win and draw from the first two games.
Rudan says the positive start has created an energy at the club which has them raring to go for what will be United’s first taste of Melbourne Derby action.
“The training week was really good, the vibe was really good at the club,” Rudan said.
“We’ve got some fantastic individuals here as well. I think it’s important that we stay focused.”
One individual bred for the big occasion is Besart Berisha, who scored the club’s first goal against Wellington in Round 1 and will look to make a similar impact in the derby against City at GMHBA Stadium.
Berisha has scored five goals in five games at the venue and is the only Hyundai A-League player to have scored multiple goals at what has become United’s home.
Given his history with Melbourne Victory, you can be sure Berisha will be motivated to add to that tally against City.
Hoping to get off the mark this weekend is Berisha’s strike partner Scott McDonald, the former Celtic marksman who has yet to score in the first two rounds of the season.
Rudan will be counting on goals from his attacking duo against a City side led by Jamie Maclaren, who has scored 12 goals in his last eight appearances for club and country.
The Caltex Socceroos marksman scored a quick-fire brace for City against Adelaide last week after returning from international duty where he bagged four goals in two games for Australia.
But Maclaren and his teammates will be stinging after Wednesday night’s 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Adelaide United in the FFA Cup Final 2019.
Rudan’s side approach the derby after a tightly-contested draw against Perth Glory last week in which United were slow to get started, before a strong second half – punctuated by a long-range Panagiotis Kone stunner – left Rudan with plenty to be optimistic about.
“Confidence and belief is important and they certainly will bring that second-half performance into [the] derby,” Rudan said.
Kone’s long-range goal was not only United’s first-ever goal scored at home in the Hyundai A-League, but a continuation of a pattern of play which Mombaerts will prepare his side to contend with on the weekend.
United have recorded eight most shots on target from outside the box so far this season – more than double any other side in the league.
It’s shows the threat posed by Rudan’s midfield stars who are more than prepared to get forward and contribute to United’s attacking play.
Kone’s midfield partner in crime Alessandro Diamanti has registered five shots on target this season, the most by any United player, while the Greek international currently sits equal fourth in the league for most chances created with five.
But that’s not to say City don’t pose a threat of their own.
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Down the left flank Erick Mombaerts is likely to deploy Craig Noone, the ex-Premier League star who worked up a special connection with Maclaren over the pre-season.
Rudan’s 3-5-2 formation will be put to the test by Noone as he looks to exploit space vacated down the left by high-flying United wingback Josh Risdon, who will be required to make an impact going forward while also tracking back to limit the damage Noone can cause if given room to roam.
In the quest to beckon United into the Hyundai A-League, Rudan will be chasing every record a new club can chase, starting with the longest unbeaten run of a new side in the league.
Only Adelaide United (W4, D2) and Gold Coast United (W3) began their inaugural campaigns with longer unbeaten runs, and another positive result this weekend will take United one step closer to eclipsing both of these impressive records.
With records at stake, stars on show and a new rivalry set to be born, we’re set for one unforgettable afternoon of action when these two sides meet for the very first time.
Western United v Melbourne City kicks off at 6pm AEDT at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday, October 27.
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