Match Preview: Battle of Manchester – Part 3: A stern test in midfield
After dissecting the defensive units of the Manchester clubs, let’s move on to the midfield battle that may well decide this massive derby.
Mancini in the last few Manchester derbies has won it primarily with a comparatively better midfield. Players like Yaya Toure, James Milner and Gareth Barry use their physical attributes to full effect against United and Mancini will bank on a similar performance from the lot, come this Sunday. City no doubt have the best defensive record in the league and it’s also down to the tackling attributes of their holding midfield duo – something United have lacked for some time now.
Also, with the likes of David Silva and Samir Nasri weaving precise deliveries in the final third, City exude all the qualities to turn on a formidable show against their rivals. Mancini was delighted with the quick recovery of David Silva ahead of this crucial clash, as it’s only him that could bring the attacking unit in their usual prolific form.
Moreover, the forward runs from Yaya Toure could be that another feature of the City game which could cause problems to the thin defensive cover of the United side and the past suggest that even the best midfield markers like Park Ji Sung couldn’t do enough to counter this midfield marauder.
Sir Alex has again decided to trust his defensive strengths as he chose against recruiting any holding or tackling central midfielder from the market. His inability to find the right midfield combination until now has probably been one of the factors in conceding 21 league goals so far. The Scot has variety of options to run his passing game, yet not one who could act as a single minded defensive foil.
The return of Darren Fletcher may have been well timed and he could prove to be a decisive card in changing the game in favour of United. His energy that keeps him involved on both ends of the field and when we add the all round abilities of Wayne Rooney to it, the Scot may find a temporary ploy to set the tone at the Etihad Stadium.
And as usual, if things need some tidying up, the manager has always had the luxury of introducing veterans like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs to restore order. All Ferguson has to do is send a midfield that won’t bow down to the pressure created by the City side, which has been a familiar sight in their past few meetings. A side with a positive intent right from the word go will be the only way to get something out of a modern day Premier League fortress that City have conjured in the Eastlands in the past few years.
A lot will depend on the passing network at the centre of the turf and the duties will be down to Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry to keep possession flowing through to the attacking third for the respective sides. The two opposite numbers holding the midfield strings across Manchester occupy a similar role in the side, but they have a completely different set of skills to impose their presence in the middle of the park.
While Barry relies on winning aerial battles and is more of a tackler that wins the ball more consistently for his side, Carrick is all about quick passes and neat interceptions. Both of them have had a significant influence on their side’s midfield as their forward passing completion rate highlights their ability to create chances for the forward line, even from deeper in midfield. The comparisons reflect that Barry are a more complete package and he holds an edge over his rival, and its effects are also crystal clear in their side’s overall performances in the past few months.
It will certainly be a lip-smacking off-field tactical battle between the two managers in coming up with the right midfield combination as it could very well come down to their consistency and bite with which they will attempt to have a grip on this massive game.
Read more ahead of the crucial Manchester derby: