Tactical Preview: Manchester United v Manchester City – Premier League 2016/17

Derby day is here! The hype has been bigger than usual going into a game against Manchester City and it’s got that “big fight feel” to it and it’s no mystery as to why. Jose Mourinho v Pep Guardiola is arguably the biggest rivalry of modern football managers, both enjoying a good verbal sparring now and again but talk aside, they both want to win. Both Manchester United and City come into the game with a perfect start, three wins from three games, but the momentum has swayed with United after the huge news of Sergio Aguero receiving a three-match ban after elbowing Winston Reid. On top of that, in his pre-match press conference, Jose Mourinho declared everyone fit for Saturday including Henrikh Mkhitaryan who looked to have sustained a relatively serious injury for Armenia, Luke Shaw who returned home from the England squad with a slight muscle issue and Antonio Valencia who was a doubt as his return from international duty was scheduled to be only 24 hours before the game. With a full squad it’s likely we’ll see a similar line up to the game against Hull:

However, the likes of Anthony Martial and Daley Blind may be looking over their shoulders with the former’s form being very hit and miss, and the returning Chris Smalling the obstacle for Daley Blind who has had another solid start to the season. Marcus Rashford, who came off the bench to score the winner against Hull, will likely be on the bench again with Zlatan Ibrahimovic also enjoying a solid start scoring three goals in three games. Not only has he added the goalscoring element to United but he is a genuine leader, allows players to make runs around him and as we saw in the game against Southampton, the ability to dominate defenders. He had the beating of Jose Fonte every time they came together and confirmed it by hammering his header home leaving Fonte for dead. This is something he’ll look to replicate against City when he comes up against the inexperienced John Stones, who not only comes with a huge price tag but also is touted as one of England’s most promising players. However Stones is known for his ball playing ability and is confident bringing the ball out rather than hammering away like most defenders, this is both an advantage and disadvantage, he has been caught out a couple of times and this is something Jose will be targeting early on in the derby as if Zlatan can rattle Stones early, he is prone to a mistake or two. Otamendi provides a more potent threat to Ibrahimovic as he is physical and loves an aerial duel even if his time in England hasn’t been the most successful since his move from Valencia.

Manchester City will more than likely play the same formation and style as they did in their 3-1 win over West Ham, dominating the play with 67.1% possession, 503 completed passes and 22 shots on goal (Four Four Two). That last stat is likely to be reduced due to the absent Aguero but the possession stats will be similar, as Jose will allow City to have the ball but be tough to break down and with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the counter attack will be key for United. City has been utilising their depth in wingers this season to great reward with Nolito and Sterling scoring goals and imposing a real threat, United will be relieved that Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia are fit to play as it’ll be a busy day on both sides of the United defence. As well as the wingers at their disposal, City has potentially two of the most creative players in the world in David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, both on their day have the ability to turn games on their head and win matches for their team. City’s biggest weakness is the ability to keep a clean sheet, even when they have dominated games they’ve allowed the opposition to get back into it. Otamendi looks slightly more settled and Stones is still learning his game but both the full backs in Zabaleta and Clichy aren’t anything special and have been pretty poor defensively this season. As you can see from the graphic, City has only won 31 out of 107 attempted tackles and more importantly, against Ibrahimovic, has only won 51 out of 112 headed duels.

Manchester City Average Duels Won [Squawka]

Manchester City Average Duels Won [Squawka]

United, on the other hand, have had an extremely solid defence this season, conceding only one goal and that’s all without arguably our best defender in Chris Smalling, who was injured going into the season. Eric Bailly has been absolutely incredible this season picking up Man of the Match award in two of the three Premier League games and averaging nine successful defensive contributions per game, according to Squawka. His fierce approach and terrific game reading ability, he has been an absolute rock at the back alongside the more technical Daley Blind who has been as solid as ever bringing composure on the ball to the back line.

Eric Bailly Average Defensive Actions [Squawka]

Eric Bailly Average Defensive Actions [Squawka]

Key Battles:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic v John Stones

As mentioned earlier, Zlatan Ibrahimovic can destroy the confidence of any defender with his play and if he can get past John Stones early on, it’ll cause a wobble for the young defender but Stones will feel if he can keep the big man quiet for a while, Zlatan will go looking for the ball and ease the load on himself. Should be a tough test for the Englishman.

Anthony Martial v Pablo Zabaleta

For me this is an interesting one, Pablo Zabaleta is a quick player who was regarded as one of the best right-backs in the league but has struggled as of late, likewise Anthony Martial had an excellent debut season for United but has struggled to find any form this season, if he plays he will need all the pace and trickery he can muster to break down a solid defender. If anyone can turn it on, I’d back Martial.

Kevin De Bruyne v Marouane Fellaini

Two countrymen come up against each other this weekend and both will be looking to get the better of each other. Marouane Fellaini has been excellent thus far and will need more of the same defensive stability and pinpoint distribution. Kevin De Bruyne is excellent on the ball and makes clever runs off the ball, he isn’t quick so Fellaini will be able to track him but it’s going to be a very difficult day for Fellaini if he lets De Bruyne out of his sights.

Raheem Sterling v Antonio Valencia

Antonio Valencia started this season better than any earning the praises of all around him but with a relatively easy start to the season, this will show how in-form he really is. Raheem Sterling had endured a tough season last year but has come out of the blocks firing, his pace will be matched by Valencia but the make-shift right-back will give him opportunities and if Sterling can produce in the final third, City will have a strong advantage. This will go both ways however as Valencia loves to bomb forward and if Sterling doesn’t put in a shift defensively, United will use the right-hand side more and more in attack.

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