Wednesday, April 12 15:00 GMT
Old Trafford, Manchester
A troubled Manuel Pellegrini takes his Manchester City team to a resurgent Old Trafford, singing to the tune of Dutch tactician Louis van Gaal. It is the 152nd Manchester derby and the stakes are high – the winner of the match will be on course to finishing second in the league, and more importantly, above the other. While this was a situation Van Gaal would’ve taken gleefully when the sides last met at the Etihad in November, City’s fall will deepen the lines on Pellegrini’s forehead. From title contenders to fighting for the automatic Champions League spots, City’s fall has been appalling, not just in terms of results, but also the ease with which they were beaten in their last three away games.
The derby is a chance for United to steal back some of the bragging rights they have lost to the noisy neighbours over the last few years. Not since 2011 have United beaten City at Old Trafford, and they couldn’t be playing the defending champions at a better time. We preview the game.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Van Gaal is likely to stick to the same starting eleven that has been on form in their last three Premier League games – with Marcos Rojo at centre back the only player from this bunch not to have played all three games. Daley Blind will look to keep those overlapping runs past Ashley Young going on the left, and with Marouane Fellaini “undroppable”, Ander Herrera the new crowd favourite, and Juan Mata working well with his compatriot in midfield, it looks like Angel di Maria and Falcao will be stealing glances at Van Gaal from the bench during the game.
Robin van Persie declared himself fit but is likely to stay on the bench for the match, while Chris Smalling is still unavailable through illness. Luke Shaw’s injury and Jonny Evans’s suspension are the only other worries for Van Gaal. Skipper Wayne Rooney has declared he wants the United faithful to be able to give out banter on Monday, so he will no doubt have the team motivated for this big match. Michael Carrick is set to play a key role in front of the back four, and United will look to replicate the success Arsenal had at the Etihad not too long ago, using the same 4-1-4-1 formation.
Probable Starting Line Up (4-1-4-1): De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Marcos Rojo, Blind; Carrick; Mata, Ander Herrera, Fellaini, Young; Rooney
Pellegrini’s side have been off form and will look to turn things around in a fixture they have dominated in the recent past. City have won 6 of the last 7 derby matches and will look to maintain status quo. Pellegrini has been evasive while answering questions about a title challenge and Sunday’s game might be the game that decides whether or not he stays at the Etihad come summer time. Lose this game, and Pellegrini must surely be on his way. In spite of being away from home to the Premier League’s form side, and given their own abysmal recent performances, Pellegrini is likely to stick with an attacking 4-4-2 formation.
To compound to the Chilean’s woes, skipper Vincent Kompany may have to sit this game out. Also missing are January signing Wilfried Bony (ankle injury), Stevan Jovetic and Dedryck Boyata. Kompany’s possible omission will hurt City the most, with the captain playing a crucial role in City’s recent derby wins over United. Pellegrini’s problems tactically lie on the way City set up with two wingers going forward in a slow build up, but rarely coming back to help out the midfield, making it essentially a 4-2-4. With the strikers not firing on all cylinders, such a tactic exposes the midfield and leaves them open to counter-attacks. If Kompany doesn’t play, Pellegrini might consider switching tactics and being a little more pragmatic with his formation.
Probable Starting Line Up (4-4-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Clichy; Navas, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva; Aguero, Dzeko
- City have won six of the last seven Premier League derby meetings.
- Since losing to Manchester City on 2 November, the Red Devils have suffered just two defeats in 21 league games (W15, D4).
- United have claimed 40 points at home – more than any other Premier League side.
- City have not kept a clean sheet away from home in eight league and cup matches since 13 December.
- City striker Aguero has only netted three times in his last 12 top-flight appearances – with two of those goals penalties.
Player to Watch out For
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
While there are many key battles that would decide the game, Wayne Rooney’s performance will be decisive on Sunday, both as a player and as a captain. He has to get the message across to the likes of Ander Herrera and Daley Blind about the importance of a Manchester derby and the connotations it holds. Rooney also has a bit of history against the city rivals, scoring a memorable goal against them in the 2011 derby. He will look to feed on Kompany’s recent indecisiveness. Rooney is on 170 league goals for United – a double on Sunday would take him over Denis Law to make him the third highest United league goalscorer ever. This could be his extra motivation, if he needed any.
Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City
United play especially well against teams that attack and don’t sit back – the results against Spurs and Liverpool are a case in point. Van Gaal drills his team well and sets them up cleverly against the big opposition, so United are not expected to lose. Form is on their side and lack of it, on City’s, so it looks like a rare recent derby win for United is on the cards. Wayne Rooney to be involved in both goals is our not so cheeky punt.
Blast from the Past
We bring you the match that ended 1-0 in City’s favour last November, as a ten man United fell at the Etihad. It could’ve been worse, had it not been for David de Gea.