Manchester United blamed early season defensive problems on a shortage of defensive players in their squad. Well, with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling back fit United certainly have options and can't really use that excuse any more ahead of the weekend derby.
With City out of Europe their primary concern is now going to be retaining their Premier League trophy. They won’t care one bit that they have less recovery time than their rivals and they won’t care that they played a mid-week match away in Germany, City will be on the hunt for a repeat of the 6-1 humiliation they dished out to United last season.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that City will be cagey at the start of the match this weekend. They have the home support and they will be going all out with their natural attacking urges to get ahead quickly and secure the match. They are one side the United could find it much more difficult to claw back if they concede the lead early on.
United have a very simple job to do if they want to keep City at bay. They need to stay strong and organised in the middle and force City to play wider which is where they are weaker. City thrive when David Silva and Yaya Toure can get on the ball and feed the main strikers.
United have been unable to answer Yaya Toure in recent encounters, whatever they have tried simply hasn't worked. It is no coincidence their 3-2 FA Cup win at the Etihad last season came when Toure was absent.
Ferguson also needs to be worried about the little stats because they make a difference in the big games. If United can have the majority of the possession then they will be taking the pressure away from the defence and placing it onto the home team. This will also help the goalkeeper as City are likely to place someone in front of the ‘keeper at set pieces to try and block him in the way that Reading did successfully over the weekend.
United know that City have been vulnerable in the first half of games this season but they come back with impact substitutes when the original tactics don’t work. If United can keep a clean sheet or even hold the lead going into these late periods then they will have fantastic chance of securing the three points which will give them a six point cushion over City and after last season, they are not likely to let that lead slip.
The fact United have conceded 33 goals in all competitions so far is an amazing statistic for the side that sit top of the Premier League and were one of the first teams through to the last 16 in the Champions League. Their defensive performance was terrible against Reading which means United are likely to go back to basics to keep City at bay.
If United stay strong in defence and force City into areas where they are vulnerable then they will win the match but if they show a lack of confidence in defence or as a team in general then City won’t hesitate to pull the trigger and make it three league wins against their rivals in a row.
Will City win again or can United finally find an answer to Toure?
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