Manchester City v Manchester Unite
How City can win Decide on creativity or out-and-out pace
Manchester City might line up as a 4-3-3 but the shape will change depending on the phase of play. While Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy often overlap in attack, against some sides City’s back four moves to a three, with Walker becoming a right-sided centre-back.
This means Mendy (right) operates as a winger on one side and the right-sided forward stretches play on the opposite flank and – crucially – allows for two central strikers. Gabriel Jesus can start wide left in place of Leroy Sane and tuck inside to a central forward’s position alongside Sergio Aguero once City are in the opposition half. Raheem Sterling has been in fine form and offers a massive counterattacking threat, but if United sit deep and frustrate, there will be no room behind the defenders for Sterling to attack. Therefore, it makes sense to have someone better at keeping the ball and creating in tight spaces like Riyad Mahrez. Mahrez did this against Spurs at Wembley recently and was key to City dominating possession and defending by keeping the ball away from their opponents. Another thing to consider is that United’s defence do not deal well with fast counterattacks. Guardiola will realise that Sane’s direct running opposite Sterling could unsettle and destroy a fragile back four early in the game.
How United can win Three-man midfield needs to click
Jose Mourinho played a midfield three of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera against Juventus in a 4-3-3/4-5-1. Herrera snapped and chased at the man on the ball, Matic (below) sat a little deeper and kept things simple, while Pogba offered moments of lovely skill and gave the ball away a lot. Aside from the mistakes, it was balanced – and Juve did not dominate like they did at Old Trafford.
Guardiola usually only has Fernandinho as the pivot behind two more adventurous midfielders, but against United there is every chance that Ilkay Gundogan starts alongside one of the two Silvas in order to provide a slightly more defensive mindset. City have incredible options and whoever starts will alter the way the team shapes up.
Pogba is key to United and if City apply pressure on him and catch the midfielder in possession – something which Juventus did often in both matches – they can win turnovers in dangerous positions with United’s defence vulnerable.
If City press them high – and they will – Matic, Pogba and Herrera must move into space to help link passes. Ashley Young was furious with team-mates against Bournemouth last weekend for failing to offer him a pass, resulting in hoofed chips down the channel to nobody in particular.