KEY ISSUE FOR BLUES
FOOTBALL pundits will have spent this week picking out the men who they think could win the derby for City.
Names like Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva will be thrown around freely – and with good reason.
But one name who rarely gets a mention in terms of his importance to the fine margins between success and failure in big games is midfield kingpin Fernandinho.
And yet, it was his performance in the two halves of football in last season’s clash of these teams at the Etihad Stadium which was central to what happened.
In the first half, with United sitting deep and hoping to soak up the City pressure and pick them off on the counterattack, the Brazilian had free rein to dictate the rhythm of the game.
His pass selection is shrewd and the execution is precise, but his passing is only occasionally spectacular – and that is such a vital part of what City do.
With Fernandinho controlling midfield, City had Silva, Bernardo, Sterling and Gabriel Jesus flitting inbetween bewildered Reds.
The Blues should have had five at the break. Jose Mourinho’s tactical switch at half-time was very effective, in that Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard were ordered to throttle the City supply line – by closing down Fernandinho. They squeezed the midfielder, and United gained a toehold in the game, pushing Paul Pogba into more advanced positions.
It will be interesting to see how Mourinho approaches tomorrow. If he sets up to attack City and squeeze Fernandinho, it could be a great derby.