The city of Manchester will, once again, split into blue and red halves as the both Manchester City and Manchester United will clash again. The Citizens’ double victory over the Red Devils last season was key in deciding the destination of the English League crown and it seems this clash will have a huge say come the end of the season. However, Manchester United’s numerous problems this season places more on them to find a way past a Man City side that has not lost a Premier league game at home in over 37 games, but if the Red Devils want to break that cycle, they must do a few things:
1. AVOID CONCEDING THE FIRST GOAL
Conceding the first goal has become a fixture of Man United’s season since it has now happened 14 times already with the Red Devils coming back to win in 12 of them. However, they cannot afford to do that against this Man City side that boasts of the likes of Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko. Roberto Mancini’s side may not be having the best of seasons looking at their high performance levels from last season but they have found the net 28 times already. That is the perfect warning for a Man United defence that has given goals away in all their games except at away at Newcastle United.
2. MAN UNITED SHOULD HIT CITY FROM SET PIECES
It is quite surprising to see that Man City have not looked too strong from set pieces this season. In league games against Arsenal, Tottenham, and Everton and even in the Champions League against Ajax (away), the Citizens conceded from free kicks or from balls whipped into the area. Man United themselves have a reference from last season’s FA Cup tie at the Etihad when Wayne Rooney connected Valencia’s cross from the right and even this season, players like Jonny Evans have emerged to knock in a few goals from set pieces. This has made the Red Devils the league’s most successful side in terms of scoring from set pieces with 10 goals. If there is a time where a team’s strength must come to the fore, Sunday is the perfect moment.
3. IT MIGHT BE A TOUGH ASK BUT MAN UNITED MUST COMPETE IN MIDFIELD
Man United go into the derby with one big disadvantage in the middle of the park. Whiles Man City will parade Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry as the main cast with Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell waiting on the bench, Man United can put out Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, and Darren Fletcher. Surely, it is a huge problem for the Red Devils since that zone will more or less decide the winner of the encounter. However, the visitors must try and compete by any means necessary. Wayne Rooney would have to reprise the role of support striker and extra midfielder put together in United wants to have a chance of competing in midfield. In addition, should Cleverley be fit for the encounter, he should partner Carrick for his energy to combat what City will throw at them. In-form Anderson would have been the perfect choice for the game because of his energy but he is injured. Sir Alex Ferguson should avoid starting Scholes or Giggs else the Red Devils will be overrun by Man City in that zone.
A further point would have been made about how United should employ width as they did against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but since there is no clear news on the fitness of Antonio Valencia, one cannot tell how Man United will shape up on Sunday.
What is most important is that the Red Devils should leave the Etihad unscathed. A draw or (in the most unlikely situation, a win) would be a very good result since it would maintain the 3-point gap on the Man City. With games for both sides between now and the return tie at Old Trafford, anything can happen and maybe that tie would not be a deciding factor in the title race. That, unfortunately, is a long time away. What is most important now is the clash on Sunday.
Bring on Derby Day.