KEY IS­SUE FOR BLUES

Manchester Evening News - - THE 177TH DERBY - STU­ART BREN­NAN

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.

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