Sunday, 25 October 2015 1405 hours UTC
Old Trafford, Manchester
Manchester United will play hosts to their cross town rivals in a fixture that will not only be for bragging rights but also determine which of the two will finish at the top of the league at the end of this game week. THT takes a look at what’s in store for the Manchester Derby on Sunday.
Team News, Tactics and Lineup
The home side are having a pretty roller coaster season by all standards. They seemed to be going along smoothly having put in three goals a piece against Liverpool, Southampton and Sunderland to win those respective fixtures and then even managed to secure a home win against Wolfsburg in the Champions League. Yet a few days later they were all at sea against an Arsenal side that turned them inside out not once but thrice within the first 20 minutes of the game. Things seemed to normalise when the Red Devils bounced back with another 3 goal rout of Everton on the road but then they put in a lackadaisical performance against CSKA Moscow on Wednesday to draw the game.
Louis van Gaal would like to blame the many injuries especially to his defensive personnel for the inconsistency but the fact remains that the side does lack a basic quality that was associated with Ferguson sides of yore. The arrival of Anthony Martial coinciding with a lift in United’s overall performance though is not accidental. The French teenager has added much needed speed to United’s frontline and the increased movement has caused problems for opposition sides not prepared for that. City would be in that potentially unpleasant situation on Sunday given their own defensive frailties in the absence of skipper Vincent Kompany.
United have no better man than de Gea to man the goal and his position is unlikely to come under threat unless something cataclysmic happens. His defensive line however is much more volatile, changing almost every game. LvG has been hit by injury issues to key defensive personnel. Luke Shaw is out with a long term injury and is unlikely to be back any time soon. His absence has meant that United’s left flank has become particularly vulnerable. Phil Jones, who undoubtedly has a lot of talent, is unable to materialise the talent with his penchant for getting injured. He has spent more time off the field than on it this season and is doing no favours to him or Manchester United. This leaves LvG with very restricted options in defense. Smalling has been a rock of consistency in all this mayhem and has earned his place in the starting lineup for Sunday. Having tried both Rojo and Jones to partner Smalling, LvG might want to go with the latter especially since Rojo has shown himself a bit lazy to track back. This was exposed in the match against CSKA and may prompt LvG to drop him to the bench and bring back Italian Matteo Darmian on the left flank. Valencia is defensively challenged to an extent but he is still the best of what is at disposal and LvG would go with him for the right back position.
In midfield too, United have been trying various combinations with varied results. Schweinsteiger seems to be tired and probably deserves a couple of games on the bench just to get his breath back. Carrick too has not been at his best. Schneiderlin and Herrera are the other two options that LvG has to play in midfield. LvG has already hinted that United might consider continuing to play in the 4-3-3 formation. Herrera didn’t play particularly well against CSKA in the advanced role and may be a better fit to play on the left alongside Schneiderlin and Carrick. Carrick’s primary task would be to maintain supply to the forward line while Schneiderlin will need to sit a bit deeper and break up play between City’s attacking line while at the same time shielding the fragile defense. Memphis has been mediocre at best for the club and would most probably find himself on the bench for the fixture.
Martial has been phenomenal for United in the last month or so and should find his name on the team sheet alongside captain Rooney. The last place in the side would probably be filled by Mata who was rested on Wednesday for the derby clash.
United’s biggest concern would be to tackle the pace of the City attack especially Sterling who would aim to run down United’s vulnerable left flank. Kevin De Bruynea s red hot form would be of particular concern to LvG. The Belgian has been in top form ever since his move to City and will take some stopping. Bony and Sterling too can put in a mean run behind the defense and so Schneiderlin would need to be on top of his game to disrupt build up before the top 3 can combine to cause problems for the home side. More importantly given City’s dependence on pace for attack, United might want to play a compact formation with a high line to lay the offside trap for the pacy players. At the same time United would need to hold the ball and break swiftly through either Martial or Mata to take advantage of City’s doddering central defensive combination. This would be a problem with Yaya Toure playing the role of midfield destroyer and hence negates any advantage United might think to obtain by playing through the center, also reducing Herreraa s efficiency. United must concentrate on working the channels and keeping the ball as far as possible on their right flank and building an attack from there.
Predicted Lineup (4-3-3): De Gea; Darmian, Jones, Smalling, Valencia; Herrera, Carrick, Schneiderlin; Martial, Rooney, Mata
Manuel Pellegrini is quietly but efficiently creating a side that can challenge for and win the league title year after year. With a judicious mix of experienced players and developing talent, Pellegrini seems to have the correct blueprint and management backing to take the club to greater heights. That however does not address the immediate issues he faces via the absence of his trusted captain, Kompany.
The Belgian defender who had been on the sidelines for nearly a month through injury went ahead and represented his country in the recent Euro qualifier rounds. His appearance on the bench for the subsequent games against Bournemouth and Sevilla have sparked rumours that Pellegrini chose to drop the player for the transgression against his wishes. United at Old Trafford however would prove to be a tougher challenge than both those teams and Pellegrini may need to set aside his disciplinary stick and use prudence. Mangala has been shambolic in defense in terms of positioning and communicating with the other defenders and goalkeeper and might see himself dropped to the bench to make way for Kompany to partner Otamendi in central defense. Zabaleta who had another poor outing against Sevilla may not make the cut for this important fixture either, being replaced at left back by Kolarov. Bacary Sagna, in that case, would start at right back for City.
In midfield, the combination of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho is working well for City and there is no need to change that now. In front of them the attacking trio of Navas, De Bruyne and Sterling is settling in well, especially the latter two who along with Toure seem to have a good understanding going. City will be without both David Silva and Sergio Aguero in this important fixture through injury. Aguero has been a thorn in Uniteda s side in their derby fixtures and the movement and penetration he brings to the side will be sorely missed. In the absence of these two players, Bony would be picked by default to head the attack as the sole forward. One option that Pellegrini might want to explore is to play Fernando and then push up De Bruyne into the strikera s role but it would be at the risk of losing De Bruyne’s creativity in midfield.
From a tactical point of view, United are clearly weak on their left flank. Injuries to Luke Shaw and Depaya s indifferent form have left United having to cover that side more. Nasria s speed and directness can actually help City overload their right side to take advantage of this weakness. De Bruyne needs to be protected from Rooney who might actually be given instructions to man mark the City player and prevent him from having time on the ball. Tourea s deadly combination of pace and physical presence would be needed to break through Schneiderlin and Carrick to expose the defense and finally De Bruyne will need to be at his cracking best to beat one of the top goalkeepers currently in Europe.
Predicted Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hart; Kolarov, Otamendi, Kompany, Sagna; Fernandinho, Toure; De Bruyne, Sterling, Navas; Bony
Key Match Facts:
- City have won 6 of the last 8 Manchester derbies. The previous 6 wins took 42 games.
- The last 10 Manchester derbies have been high scoring affairs with an average of 4.1 goals per game. The most highscoring one in recent memory would be when City destroyed United 6-1 at Old Trafford in the 2011-12 season.
- Manchester City will be looking for their 50th derby win (W49 D50 L69).
- None of the last 12 Manchester derbies have ended in a draw (United 5 City 7)
Manchester United 1 Manchester City 2
City are clearly the better side on field and on paper in this competition. While both clubs have let in 8 goals apiece in the 9 games played so far, Citya s tally of 24 goals to Uniteda s 15 puts them at the top of the table on points and with a far superior goal difference. While Old Trafford is always a tough venue for the away side, City would remember their recent exploits at the venue and should be able to put it past their illustrious neigbours and return home with the full complement of 3 points.
Players to watch out for
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
The Belgian midfielder has been a revelation so far this season after completing a big money move to the Etihad. His contributions in both goals and assists has helped City maintain their lead at the top of the English league. Even on Wednesday in the game against Sevilla, De Bruynea s late strike in substitution time secured the win for City.
David de Gea (Manchester United)
United will probably face their sternest test so far this season and De Gea would be a key to them staying in the game. De Gea will have poor memories of the 2011-12 game when, in the second half, City put 5 goals past him but the goalkeeper has improved in spades since then. Citya s attacking line consisted of Balotelli, Aguero and Silva, none of whom would feature in this game, but that does not mean Citya s attack is toothless and De Gea would need to be at his best to keep De Bruyne, Sterling and the rest at bay.
Blast from the past
Manchester City traveled to Old Trafford in October 2011 to play the then champions. Both sides played out a fairly balanced first half that City led 1-0 through a Mario Balotelli strike. The second half however was a complete turnover as City dominated the home side, scoring at will as they put 5 more goals past a hapless de Gea in what was a collective failure of the entire team to hold their nerves and their opponents. While the game did not immediately hand over the crown of Manchester to the blue side, it was as vociferous an announcement as any of the “noisy neighbours” having grown up to stand toe to toe with their mighty neighbours.