Marauding Man City can overload Man United's much maligned defence in derby duel

Matt Jones 24/04/2019
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Manchester City will head across the city to rivals Manchester United on Wednesday for a Manchester derby with huge connotations for both sides.

If City can earn victory at Old Trafford, it will put them in the driving seat to retain their Premier League trophy.

The Red Devils, meanwhile, are reeling from their spineless 4-0 thrashing at Everton on the weekend and will be keen to put in a much better performance in order to derail their neighbours’ title bid – even if it might well hand fierce rivals Liverpool the initiative.

Here are some key tactical issues for Pep Guardiola to consider:

EXPOSING FULL-BACKS

2304 Man City v Man United tactics3

Ashley Young and Luke Shaw are likely to be back in on both defensive flanks – which is a good thing for the Red Devils, but also for City.

Young and Shaw bring solidity to United’s defence but Young, 33, certainly has been creaking in recent weeks as he closes in on a 40-game campaign. Shaw, meanwhile, has been United’s best player this season but may be a bit rusty having missed two games with suspension. And City might see both players as weaknesses to pick at.

Benjamin Mendy and Leroy Sane could look to overload Young on the left side while Raheem Sterling, in the form of his life, and Kyle Walker on the other side could combine to ensure Shaw endures a testing evening.

SILVA SERVICE

2304 Man City v Man United tactics4

Bernardo Silva has been a revelation this season, so much so that he has forced himself into the Player of the Year reckoning. Namesake David has, along with Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany, been the bedrock upon which City’s success over the last decade has been built.

The diminutive dynamo’s deadliness has dimmed of late, but with Kevin De Bruyne ruled out through injury, the Spanish schemer is the perfect replacement, especially in what is a crucial game in terms of the title race, where experience is likely to prove key.

And both will be pivotal in keeping City’s stellar forwards armed against a porous United defence.

With Fernandinho anchoring the midfield and breaking up United attacks, the two Silva’s will be charged with distributing possession quickly to the likes of Sterling and Sane, as well as Aguero – who has nine goals against United.

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Sergio Aguero

The much-awaited Manchester Derby has been perfectly scheduled to ward off midweek blues. Pep Guardiola’s army marches on to Old Trafford to take on a quivering Manchester United side that was recently humiliated by Everton at Goodison Park.

This derby is bound to have a major influence on the league table as a draw or defeat against United would mean that Manchester City will have to depend on results from elsewhere in order to defend their crown.

City will be in good spirits despite being ousted from Europe by Tottenham after beating the same opponents on Saturday in domestic action, whereas United are yet to recover from the blow provided by Wolves and amplified by Barcelona then Everton.

However, form is secondary in a derby as emotions take centre-stage. Counting United out could be premature, given they do have players capable of hurting City.

The Premier League is in the end-game now and Guardiola will do whatever it takes to defend the title. City, surely start as favourites.

We take a look at the key-players in this crucial tie.

Raheem Sterling – Manchester City

Sterling

Raheem Sterling has made the headlines for all the right reasons recently.

The winger has been one of the most consistent players under Guardiola and has rightly earned himself a nomination for Player of the Year.

The Englishman has been involved in 26 goals this season, scoring 17 times and providing nine more. Team-mate Sergio Aguero (27) and Real Madrid-bound Eden Hazard (29) are the only two players with better numbers in the Premier League.

Although, statistics don’t entirely justify the influence Sterling has on a particular game. He is clearly one of the most complete players in the team – and by extension – the league. Sterling averages a very impressive two key-passes a game and completes 2.4 dribbles.

Tactically flexible, the England international can drop deep to provide, hug the touchline to stretch the field or even cut inside and have a go at goal himself. Sterling has the traits and the momentum to create a huge impact on this game.

David de Gea – Manchester United

David de Gea.

David de Gea.

When you’re facing the team which fires at goal voluminously – their 18 shots in the league is the highest, Chelsea in second sit at around two less – you’ll need your goalkeeper to be on top of his game.

Unless it’s Danilo or Kyle Walker rocketing from distance, the shots produced by City are of high quality. They have recorded an xG (expected goals) of 87.53 and have scored 87 goals this season. Liverpool – who have registered an xG of 72.69 – are second on the list, but the difference is immense.

De Gea has been poor by his standards this season and erroneous recently. His last cleansheet in the league was exactly two months ago when an injury-ravaged United and injury-struck Liverpool played out a lifeless 0-0 draw at Old Trafford.

Yet there is the mitigating factor of there being practically no defence in front of him, as evidenced by the dire closing down for Gylfi Sigurdsson’s strike on Sunday. The confidence and morale is visibly low, but nothing can turn it around like a masterclass in a derby.

Sergio Aguero – Manchester City

When City face an opponent from the top six, it’s mandatory to include Aguero on the list of key players. The Argentine has always delivered for City against elite teams domestically.

The striker has scored eight goals against the top-six this season and this accounts for 42 percent of the total goals he has scored in the league. With an assist against Spurs last week, Aguero now has at least one goal-involvement against each of the top-six teams in the league in 2018/19.

The 30-year-old has already netted hat-tricks against Chelsea and Arsenal in the second half of the season plus a crucial goal to hand Liverpool their only defeat of the season back in January.

Aguero will be licking lips at the prospect of extending this record by asserting himself on an underwhelming United defence.

United have a Champions League spot to fight for but City need this win to reclaim top spot. It would be logical to expect both the teams to adopt an attacking approach. In such a case – or otherwise – Aguero could prove to be decisive.

Alexis Sanchez – Manchester United

Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez is back from injury and could get the nod for his first start since March. During his cameo against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, the Chilean created more threat in 15 minutes than United’s attack managed over two legs.

Sanchez has been in a rough patch himself ever since he jumped ship from Arsenal. But given how poorly Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial have performed ever since their comeback against Paris Saint-Germain, United might have to turn to the man behind the piano to strike the right notes.

While at Arsenal, Sanchez had a reputation of performing on the big stage and he needs to bring out that version of his past to help United pull off an unexpected victory.

Whether he plays as a winger, a No10 or as a striker, the Chilean has to take it onto himself to provide the spark that has been missing in United’s attack.

If it turns out to be one of those days for Sanchez, he could make the covers on Thursday morning.

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Taking lead in title race and Man United supporters torn among Man City talking points

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Title favourites Manchester City face rivals Manchester United in a crucial derby on Wednesday that could have huge implications in the Premier League.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some talking points ahead of the game at Old Trafford.

Title decider?

The game could be the defining fixture in the title race. The recent scheduling has meant City and Liverpool have been swapping places at the top for weeks but Pep Guardiola’s men – currently two points behind with this game in hand – have had the advantage of knowing their fate is in their own hands.

They now have to capitalise and make sure they take the three points from this extra game.

Why is it so critical?

City will be in the driving seat for the title should they defeat their Manchester rivals.

City will be in the driving seat for the title should they defeat their Manchester rivals.

Nothing will be finalised on Wednesday night but it would appear to be the biggest hurdle left facing either side in the run-in. Ordinarily, City would be expected to beat their final three opponents – Burnley, Leicester and Brighton – and likewise Liverpool should be confident against Huddersfield, Newcastle and Wolves.

If City can claim the derby spoils they will become clear favourites, even with just a one-point lead.

Looking at recent form, City should win

While City have been powering on, winning their last 10 league games and competing for the quadruple until just last week, United have hit a rut. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have lost six of their last eight in all competitions, including Sunday’s embarrassing 4-0 thrashing at Everton.

On the face of that, this should be an easy win for City but that does not take into account the unique pressures of a derby or history which shows this fixture can often throw up surprises.

United also need the points in their battle for a top-four place. Add to that the tension City will undoubtedly be feeling and the determination of a group of United players to recover from a blow to their professional pride, and nothing can be taken for granted.

Aren’t United fans in two minds about this game?

United players will be desperate to bounce back after an embarrassing defeat to Everton - but supporters will be torn over wanting their side to win.

United players will be desperate to bounce back after an embarrassing defeat to Everton – but supporters will be torn over wanting their side to win.

This is the other interesting factor in play. There is little United fans would hate more at the moment than to see their fiercest rivals, Liverpool, win the title.

They know beating City, or even just taking a point against them, would hand the Merseysiders the initiative. Helping City retain the crown would hardly be appetising either, though, and losing derby games is certainly not something they can usually stomach.

It is a dilemma for United fans with no happy outcome. It could make for an odd atmosphere, although it is debatable whether such things seep into players’ minds.

How do City replace Kevin De Bruyne?

City have suffered a big blow with the loss of their key playmaker. Admittedly De Bruyne has already missed quite a lot of the season and City have coped well but his performances in recent games have been outstanding.

His absence will put pressure on other players who have fought long campaigns. David Silva would be an obvious replacement having sat out at the weekend but he has been under par lately.

It could mean another opportunity for Phil Foden but that would be asking a lot of a youngster who has only been used sparingly so far.

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