Tuesday night's Manchester Derby will not have the same air about it as last season's derby fixtures between these two sides.
With Manchester United languishing in 7th in the Premier League this isn't the top of the table clash people might have expected when the fixture list was released at the start of the season. United though, will not want to be humiliated by their arch-rivals, or make it easy for them to reclaim the Premier League title.
Manchester City on the other hand will feel confident going into this game after a 5-0 win at Fulham and know they need to keep winning to put pressure on and overtake Chelsea.
Manchester United are without long term absentee Robin van Persie, whilst they have problems in defence. Nemanja Vidic is suspended, but Jonny Evans could return from injury to partner Phil Jones at the back, meaning that Michael Carrick will move back into central midfield having been utilized as a makeshift centre-back against West Ham.
Manchester City are still without Sergio Aguero and thus should field a similar side to the team that ran riot against Fulham, with Vincent Kompany returning from suspension. Jesus Navas will come in for James Milner in order to stretch the play at Old Trafford.
United without RVP
Against West Ham without Van Persie, United opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation that was more fluid than their previous 4-4-2 that they were playing under David Moyes. Wayne Rooney played up top as the lone striker, scoring twice (including one wonder goal) in the process.
This appeared to allow for greater fluidity from the United side with Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata and Ashley Young playing in the three support roles.
The move got a bit more out of Mata, who created five chances for his team-mates in this clash – more than any other United player. He was able to influence the play more because he was utilized in a central attacking role rather than playing out wide. In essence he came into the number 10 role, previously filled by Rooney:
This allowed Mata to get on the ball frequently and create chances in a more effective manner than he could when he was used out wide by United in recent weeks.
The change in emphasis did bring about a good result but Manchester City will be a far tougher test for this 4-2-3-1 formation. United will be confident that the Mata/Rooney partnership can bare results but will need to ensure that Adnan Januzaj and Danny Welbeck track back.
Will Man City's midfield be too powerful?
One major criticism of United this season has been their lack of power in the centre of midfield. This is in stark contrast to their opposition, Manchester City, who have power in abundance.
Yaya Toure and Fernandinho are arguably the most powerful, physical central midfield partnership in the Premier League. The pairing contributed four of the five goals scored by City versus Fulham, with Toure managing a rare hat-trick.
The Ivorian’s partnership with Fernandinho has enabled Manuel Pellegrini to opt for a 4-4-2 at times this season, although it'll be a 4-2-3-1 at Old Trafford. Toure has been excellent attacking from deep and is now City's top Premier League scorer with 16, an incredible tally for any midfielder. Fernandinho compliments him brilliantly with his pace and tactical awareness. The Brazilian will be the main defensive player of the two and thus far this season has averaged 3.1 tackles and 2.4 interceptions per game.
These two might just be too much for Carrick and Marouane Fellaini who will be the midfield pairing for United. Neither Carrick nor Fellaini are that mobile and both of them were made to look very average in the 4-1 victory City enjoyed over United at the Etihad earlier this season.
The lack of pace that the two United midfielders had was grossly exposed by the powerful forward runs of Fernandinho and Toure. It could well be in this area that City win the game, given that both players are also capable of scoring goals. Carrick and Fellaini will have a long and arduous 90 minutes in store, no matter what the outcome is.
Whilst United's title ambitions were killed off a while ago and a late bid for fourth looks unlikely, Moyes will be desperate for his side to get three points and help restore some credibility.
The 3-0 defeat at home to Liverpool was an utter humiliation, but City are more than capable of going to United and offering up a similar beating. The power of their midfield will be a key area to watch.
For United, the influence that Mata and Rooney can have will be their main strength, if these two players can link up effectively then they will always have a chance.
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