The Big Derby is here: Is Manchester Red or Blue?
The Manchester Derby, the most anticipated match in the EPL this season is finally around the corner. The red half of Manchester will go behind enemy lines this Sunday as they travel to the menacing Fort Etihad looking to extend an early lead at the top of the table.
Last season, City thoroughly outplayed United in both their fixtures, including the epic 6-1 humiliation at Old Trafford. City virtually clinched the title from United in the very last seconds and left a strong sense of revenge burning in every United heart.
The Citizens are still recovering from their dismal Champions League exit. They managed to rack up the lowest point total by any English side ever in Champions League group stages. As morale has become the main concern, the Citizens have five days to recover from their Champions League disappointment.
On the domestic front however, they are the only unbeaten EPL team, with a solid home defensive record, hence the name ‘Fort’ Etihad. Forgetting their European disappointments seem to be the way forward right now.
INJURIES: Milner, Clichy, Richards, Rodwell
Every time the critics write off Manchester United, they respond instantly. Though their defence has leaked goals, they have earned the title of comeback kings with their supremely talented attack, which has scored goals in heaps for them.
With them having comfortably qualified in the Champions League and leading the table at the moment, the momentum is with them.
INJURIES: Cleverly, Anderson, Nani, Valencia, Vidic
City will most likely play with a 4-2-2-2 system, concentrating on the midfield since they lack the width that a fit Milner could have provided.
This time around, Ferguson would be wary of City’s depth in midfield and more than likely counter it with the use of three midfielders, with Rooney dropping deep to add another midfield option.
Up front for Manchester City, either Sergio Aguero or Edin Dzeko is typically deployed as the lead striker. The withdrawn role is typically left to Carlos Tevez, his purpose is to drop into the space between the opposition’s defensive and midfield lines in order to link play. Carrick would have his task cut out as he would try to minimize any threat that Tevez possesses.
The wide players — David Silva and Samir Nasri mostly play as inside midfielders. They float freely from nominal wide positions to look for pockets of space between the lines. This allows them to create overloads in midfield and when they drift to the opposite side of the pitch, they can create easy 2 vs 1 or 3 vs 2 advantages on that flank — the overloads on the flanks is something that City did to devastating effect during their 6-1 win last season at Old Trafford.
This can be countered the way Everton did last week, as they defended deep, narrow, and in a compact shape, inviting City to play from the wings which is generally their weaker point having so many short attackers with the sole exception of Dzeko. City’s attack has the tendency to be predictable as they often run out of effective ideas against sides that are organized in their shape.
Rooney – Toure:
This will be the most crucial part of the match where Rooney would sit deeper to block Yaya Toure’s masquerading ventures into the opposite half. Whoever wins this battle would tilt the match in their team’s favour considerably.
Van Persie – Kompany:
Vincent Kompany, arguably the best defender in the league, against Van Persie, arguably the best striker in the league. This would be a battle to savour, and will probably be a major decider in the result.
City have come under considerable criticism for their hybrid zonal marking for set-pieces while United have shown their moments of uncertainty as well. Both sides also score a lot of goals from them as United lead the league so far this season in scoring from set-pieces while City are second — the champions led the league last season. Both teams would look to exploit each other’s set-piece weaknesses.
While form is with United at the moment, City have their triumphs against the Reds still fresh in their minds. In matches like this, form usually goes out of the window as the players play their hearts out with an aggression never seen before. With both the managers cautious before this match and United keen to defend better, the match would most likely open up only in the second half.
PIE Prediction: 2-2