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The Manchester Derby: Preview

Written by Will Kelly, Harry Newton, Davide Cappelli, and Toby Webb, with Alexander Craig and Ben Blakey.

With the Manchester derby coming up this weekend, the SPORT team have joined forces to preview the game! The derbies the last few years have been becoming more and more even—this one is lining up to be one of the most even some time, as both teams find themselves title challengers again.

 

City’s Tactics: Toby Webb

Going into Sunday’s clash, City will look to mimic Arsenal’s performance against United a few weeks ago; namely, to deliver the knockout blow before the end of the first round. United were completely overwhelmed by Arsenal’s direct and pacey approach, conceding three game-deciding goals in the first 20 minutes. The directness was too much for United’s haggard midfield of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger; huge gaps in midfield and in front of the defence were easily exploited.

City has the pace to emulate Arsenal’s achievement, with Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. De Bruyne has truly hit the ground running since his move to England late in the transfer window, creating and scoring goals in recent matches. Sterling has shown glimpses of class; a big performance at Old Trafford will immediately place him in the fans’ hearts.

I have maintained for some time that City look their most threatening when the counter-attacking style, employing a fast tempo and directness. Several of the goals scored in the 6-1 demolition of Newcastle were on the counter-attack, thus showing that City have the components to play in this way.

A counter-attacking style will be easier to adopt as they are playing away from home. United will be expected to dominate the game, with the majority of players looking to join the attacks. This will leave open space for City to utilise as long as they can move the ball forward quick enough.

As mentioned, the midfield, specifically the gap between the defence and deep-sitting midfielder, will be a crucial area that City can exploit. David Silva, provided he’s fit, will aim to occupy this insecure space, looking to thread balls through to the striker or stretch the play by bringing in the wide players. Silva sometimes has a tendency to slow the play down by passing laterally or even backwards, however, he must endeavour to go forward as much as possible if City are to have the same success as Arsenal did.

A further aspect that plays into City’s advantage is the often unpredictable United team selection. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young have both played out of position in recent weeks. While Marcus Rojo’s return to fitness should resolve some of the issues, United will most likely continue to play Daley Blind, who is traditionally a midfielder, in defence. He is a solid player but the likes of De Bruyne and Silva could easily expose him. Ultimately, Louis Van Gaal is yet to decide on his favoured starting team; this uncertainty is something City should look to exploit if possible.

With Vincent Kompany likely to be fit, City should have a solid and organised defence on which to build a strong performance. City manager Manuel Pelligrini often errs on the side of caution in the big games, selecting two midfielders to sit in front of the defence, these likely to be Fernandinho and Yaya Toure (Fernando if the latter is not fit). This formation has sometimes left City looking uninspiring going forward. However, the inventiveness of De Bruyne and the pace of Sterling should counteract this.

With both teams in Champions League action this week (United away to CSKA Moscow and City at home to Sevilla), both managers will have to use their squads effectively to ensure the right players are fresh for Sunday’s clash. From a City perspective, if the team can play with the same tempo and directness shown against Newcastle (something United have struggled against previously), they will likely be the victors on Sunday.

Toby Webb’s prediction: 2-0 City

 

City’s Tactics: Harry Newton

Manchester City find themselves in a difficult situation when asking who their star man is for this game, with their obvious best player this season David Silva, and goal machine Sergio Agüero, both likely to miss out. When City fans sat and watched Agüero tear apart Newcastle their minds turned to this very match! Five against Newcastle in twenty minutes? Surely Agüero could manage two or three against Louis Van Gaal’s men in 90! Alas, the man of glass suffered an injury. So who is City’s main man now?

Kevin de Bruyne, since his megabucks move from Wolfsburg this summer, has injected City with a whole new feel. The energetic midfielder brought the Blues straight back after a stuttering start. David Silva is almost the complete footballer, but what he misses, de Bruyne has. Watching the two play together for the start of the Belgian’s City career has been scintillating, and there is no reason he cannot do this without Silva or Aguero by his side. This man has unlocked some of the best defences in the world—whether it be acting as the Bundesliga Player of the Year in Germany last year, or for Belgium—so he should have no trouble against a faulting Manchester United defence, surely…

One of City’s men who slips under the radar of many, but consistently performs, is Fernandinho. He will be just as important to this game as de Bruyne, and if he continues on his good form he will do well for the Blues.

Harry Newton’s prediction: 1-0 to City. Either de Bruyne, or a Joe Hart overhead kick.

 

United’s Tactics: Will Kelly

In terms of historical significance in the world, the University of Manchester has proven to be influential in the school of physics with the likes of Alan Turing with his computer science, and Ernst Rutherford splitting the atom. Over at Old Trafford, a new “philosophy” is emerging from Van Gaal having made a strange new discovery of his own: ‘False Mata’.

The base of this theory is that Juan Mata is no longer the playmaker United fans had thought they had signed but is the “false right winger,” as Van Gaal has dubbed him last season. Instead of looking to assist in a congestive midfield where he only stands at 5’7″, it is the Spaniard’s job of getting the ball into the back of the net.

Matteo Darmian as the overlapping fullback provides width, which enables Mata to drift inside, often without the ball, looking for space between defenders on the edge of the box. Manuel Pelligrini opted for a 4-4-2 formation in the Manchester derby last year and it certainly proved costly. Yaya Toure, for whatever reason, did not track back and United’s midfield utilised Mata in the gaps behind City’s midfield. This was, essentially, playing triangles around City’s midfield and United were able to win 4-2.

Mata is currently United’s player of the month, having completed an average pass accuracy of 90 per cent, notching up three goals and four assists, and his performances will be key if United are to make a sustained challenge for the Premier League title this season.

However, against Arsenal, United were themselves suspect of allowing too much space which Arsenal attacked ruthlessly. It did not make tactical sense to play Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger because they did not have the legs to track back against Arsenal’s deep runners. I would expect Schneiderlin to start the game and to really get stuck into Yaya Toure and break their midfield down.

United have been playing a possession-dominated game this season but they need to play with intensity, and to have no fear in taking on City’s fullbacks to force Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne to track back into their own half. Questions will be raised if Memphis Depay will start, as he has been so inconsistent thus far, and I would expect that Ashley Young will start ahead of him, as he loves to drive at the full back.

This will be a big game for the 19-year-old Anthony Martial, who has been nothing short of a revelation since his arrival. Scoring three goals in four games, Martial has rightfully been named as Premier League Player of the Month for September. Something that has been quite surprising is his strength, as he is able to hold the ball up and turn on his centre back to really drive into the box.

Vincent Kompany will be a stern test of strength but if he can continue to make runs behind the centre backs or carry the ball in close control within these areas, this will allow the likes of Mata and Young (if selected) to penetrate the inside of the area. The key to success is to keep possession of the ball, but also to be clinical in attack and like United’s recent performance against Wolfsburg, United could run City into the ground.

Will Kelly’s prediction: 2-1 for United. United to get a two goal lead, and a nervy ending.

 

City Derby Memories: Harry Newton

There’s been some fantastic derby moments for City down the years, but there is one that sticks out more than any other: The 6-1. In City’s first title-winning season, they needed the belief that they could really see off the world’s best teams and go on and snatch the Premier League trophy for their first time in decades.

This game had it all. Balotelli started off the goal scoring and began a humiliating day for the reds as he silenced the Old Trafford crowd and stole away all their attention to look at his message under his shirt. “Why always me?” If that was the only goal in a 1-0 win then maybe you would have had the back pages Mario, but the blues continued full steam ahead.

Aguero bagged two, Silva with another, and Edin Dzeko finished off the romp with two for himself! Dzeko’s last goal will be seen for years to come on numerous highlights reels, whether it be for the demise of Manchester United that season, the rise of Manchester City, the fantastic assist from David Silva or his pure audacity to check the scoreboard before holding up six fingers to whoever were left in the Old Trafford stands to see him.

Prior to the game some comments from Sir Alex Ferguson about City’s inferiority to the red side of Manchester added insult to injury for United fans, and the blue half of Manchester still sing about this day since. The fact that City have since beaten United to the league title by mere seconds, and had them battered once more by a big 4-1 score line—and yet they still sing about this day, tells you all you need to know about how important this game was for the team and fans alike.

This was not just a battering of a local rival in front of their own fans—this was a statement of intent to the world. Manchester City have grown. They were no longer little City, or megabucks City struggling in the Europa League—these were the quick, the goal-scoring title contenders Manchester City. It’s just a shame that this was only the second best game City played that season…

 

United Derby Memories: Will Kelly

My favourite derby memory was Manchester United’s 4-3 victory, when Michael Owen scored in the 96th minute to win the game. It was an absolutely incredible game and bar Bellamy’s wonder strike, United had practically handed City the three goals after some serious errors by United’s defence. I remember some people started to leave after City had scored the equalizer in the 90th minute but for some reason, I knew that the game wasn’t over yet.

I was pumped with adrenaline and I lost my voice trying to rally fans around me that we could keep going. After the pass from Ryan Giggs (with the outside of his foot), there was deafening silence as Michael Owen took the touch in the box and prodded home the winner. The stadium exploded and I for one as a 16-year-old was whisked around, and lifted up six rows up the stand. I had to find my brother after the match, that was how far I was lifted up!

Another favourite memory was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season when Robin Van Persie scored the winner from a free kick, again in added time. I was in the away end and we just erupted in a sea of red. My glasses flung off during the wild celebrations and it wasn’t ideal that I had to submit an essay for the next day, having spent the whole day drinking. It was a long night!

 

United Fan Comment: Alexander Craig

United are going to win this derby for the same reason City will never mount successive title campaigns, because City is a pseudo-football club with a hollow culture. These games are won and lost on the commitment of the players, something which Manchester’s resident Dutch lunatic has instilled in his team in abundance.

That, and this season’s City mercenaries will be as startled as they were last season when they look around our vast colosseum of football and see no empty seats.

The return of Vincent Kompany is music to United’s ears. His lust for hot-headed defending, leaving space in behind and giving away needless fouls, is something which the Ice-Man Martial is bound to feed off. I’d even go as far as saying Rooney could score. Chins will rest comfortably in chests once Martial ripples the net for the first time and with Aguero and Silva injured, I can’t see Smalling having too much to worry about.

Alexander Craig’s prediction: 2-0 to United (Martial brace)

 

City Fan Comment: Ben Blakey

The biggest club in the Manchester area have recruited well over the summer, adding a world-class player in Kevin De Bruyne and the flair and promise of the young Raheem Sterling. If you watched the opening month of the season, you’d be a fool not to back the mighty blues to win their third PL title in four years.

With Agüero and Silva fit there’s no doubt it’d be a cricket score, with the Spanish magician orchestrating goals, goals and more goals. On his day, Agüero is the best player in the world. However, with both these players doubtful, the likes of Sterling, KDB and Bony will have to step up. This shouldn’t be a problem against the pub players United have at the moment, most notably Chris Smalling and the donkey Michael Carrick. Kolarov will be vital in securing the 3 points, his marauding runs and magical left foot can be devastating.

City have injuries, and, although it’s well known that we are a beautiful team, sometimes you just never know what you’re going to get. The balance of power in Manchester has definitely switched since Fergie’s departure: United are now ‘the noisy neighbours’.

Ben Blakey’s prediction: Comfortable 3-1 to City.

Tags: Derby, manchester city, Manchester United, Old Trafford, Pellegrini, van gaal

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