Premier League Tactical Preview: Manchester City v Manchester United

Sunday's Manchester Derby is the biggest game of the season so far. Two new managers, both faced with high expectations and a lot of pressure will lock horns for the first time as managers of their respective Manchester clubs. 

Manchester United beat Manchester City at the Etihad last season so City will be desperate for revenge in front of their home crowd. City go into the game as slight favourites at 2.15 for the win, with United are the longer odds of 3.35.

Possible line-ups

David Silva should be fit to face United on Sunday, whilst Gael Clichy could miss out, meaning that Aleksandar Kolarov could deputise for the Frenchmen.

Danny Welbeck could be fit, but Shinji Kagawa will probably continue playing from the left. Antonio Valencia enjoyed a good game midweek so is also likely continue.

City's defensive frailties

Manchester City had the best defensive record in the Premier League last season. Yet they were not without their problems at the back. Joe Hart has had (at times exaggerated) problems in goal over the last 12 months or so, often making high profile errors and at times looking less commanding than usual. His inability to command his penalty area was obvious as City crashed to a 3-2 defeat at Cardiff with two goals coming from set-pieces. Hart looked unsure as to whether to come or go on both goals, which inevitably cost his side.

City will be buoyed by the fact that they have kept three consecutive clean sheets. However, against Stoke they were still uncertain at the back and lucky not to have been punished. Vincent Kompany returned to the starting line-up against Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday night to partner Matija Nastasic. The pair had formed a good partnership last season but despite usually high standards at the back, Vincent Kompany was less assured at times last season than we are used to from him. Against a very strong United attack City's back five will have to work together without any complication. The communication and relationship between the two centre-backs and the keeper will be absolutely crucial as City cannot really afford a slip-up in such a high profile match.

Manchester United's attacking approach

With Wayne Rooney fully fit, United are now looking a much better attacking prospect to the side that fired a blank away at Liverpool. Rooney scored twice midweek in the Champions League and also scored on his return to the side via a free-kick against Crystal Palace. Rooney's return has also ended a two game goal drought for Robin van Persie, who in that period failed to get a shot on target. Van Persie though netted against Palace and also scored against Bayer Leverkusen.

David Moyes has tinkered with the tactical approach somewhat, making it slightly more of a 4-4-2 than it was previously. He himself has declared that he won't be using Rooney in midfield and now he is forming a more logical strike partnership with van Persie, rather than being an outright number 10.  Rooney does still drop off though and drift into space, as he always has, and in the process created four chances for his team-mates against Palace. So whilst we can expect him to be in more of a pairing with van Persie, we will also see a degree of interchange, potentially with Shinji Kagawa, as was the case on Tuesday.

By analysing the average positions of the Manchester United players from Tuesday’s Champions League victory we can see how it does develop into a 4-4-2:

Rooney (no.10) is next to van Persie (20), whilst Antonio Valencia (25) is out wide right and Kagawa (26) is tucked in from the left. This is interesting as despite being positioned next to each other as a strike partnership, Rooney and van Persie performed different roles. Rooney had 64 touches of the ball, vastly more than the 48 touches of the ball that van Persie enjoyed. This is indicative of the fact that Rooney will still drop off, even in a front two. Watching the interchange of these two players will be key on Sunday and City's 'frail' defence will need to be on guard.


Manchester City goes into the game as slight favourites, although they are not without their problems going into this tie. Whilst their defence looks strong on paper and boasts a good record they have at times looked uncertain at the back. Facing a very strong strike pairing of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie they simply have to be on their game and concentrate throughout the 90 minutes, or risk being punished. 

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