Can Milner provide a third way for Man City?
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has some interesting dilemmas ahead of what is likely to be one of the most hotly-contested Manchester derbies in years at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Does he play with two strikers - a formula that has been successful against weaker teams in the Premier League - and look to exploit a Manchester United defence which has conceded vastly more shots on target this season?
Will the Italian manager opt for the formation which was key in beating United during the FA Cup semi-final last season, where Yaya Toure operated behind lone striker Mario Balotelli?
Or with a draw enough to keep City top of the league, could he opt for a more conservative approach which was more in keeping with the early part of last season?
City's biggest struggles this term have come in the Champions League and some of the games, including their narrow win over Villarreal on Tuesday and the defeat by Bayern Munich last month, appear to have crystalised Mancini's options.
During the first half of the Villarreal victory, the City boss withdrew winger Adam Johnson to add more control to central midfield with Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong operating behind Toure.
But it wasn't until Sergio Aguero came onto the pitch to replace Nigel de Jong late on that City finally landed the telling blow with the Argentine scoring an injury-time winner.
The key difference on Sunday is that City do not need to win. With United's firepower and an unsettled defence, Mancini may opt for a similar course of action to Tuesday by keeping it tight before unleashing his attacking options.
"City are probably still trying to find their feet about what sort of team they are and what sort of formation they will play because they had a lot of new additions in the summer," says former City right-back Danny Mills.
"Naturally a lot of these players want to go out and attack. Last season they were very Italian and very rigid under Mancini, but the flair players have settled in a bit more and have taken them to next level. At the moment, though, City look a bit fragile at the back when they attack."
No more was that underlined than in City's defeat by Bayern, where De Jong sat on the bench and a front four of Aguero, Edin Dzeko, David Silva and Samir Nasri left City's defence overexposed.
Following the negativity from last season, it might be a price that City fans are occasional willing to pay but there may be another way of incorporating two strikers without undermining their defensive solidity in midfield.
We are talking here of James Milner, who was the architect of City's stoppage-time winner on Tuesday, and also showed further evidence of his improvement with a superb pass and finish against Aston Villa last Saturday.
The 25-year-old can offer a balance to City's midfield should Mancini want to keep United's defenders on their toes.
Mills, who played with Milner at Leeds, adds: "James has a good engine, he will get forward and score the odd goal but he gives you assurances. When you go to Old Trafford in a derby it's a cauldron, and the odd tasty tackle will be flying in. You need to know what you are going to get.
"Do you know what sort of game Nasri is going to play? Do you know what sort of game Johnson is going to play? Possibly not. Even Aguero, you are not quite sure, but Milner is going to give you an eight out of 10 performance no matter what."
The Italian in Mancini may opt for a five-man midfield including Milner and without Nasri, but that system at Chelsea last season turned out to be a passive one.
Yet the problems United have suffered in defence will have not gone unnoticed at the Etihad.
United keeper David de Gea has made the most saves of any keeper in the Premier League this season and Mills believes this stems from an unsettled defence.
"United have still struggled to find a replacement for Gary Neville, although it hurts me to say that," Mills states. "Rio Ferdinand has been unfortunate with injuries and Nemanja Vidic has been a massive loss.
"Phil Jones has come in and done pretty well but he's only played a few games, and Jonny Evans does not cut it for me as a Manchester United centre-half, so you have three or four defenders who have been injured, out of form or not settled.
"Vidic will be a huge plus coming back in, but who plays alongside him? If you think about it, Fabio, Jones, Chris Smalling and Antonio Valencia have all played at right-back. In defence it is very difficult to build relationships and understanding when players are constantly changing."
Despite United's defensive problems, Mills believes they still hold the advantage and will use the pace of Wayne Rooney and Nani to get at City's backline as Mills thinks they have issues of their own.
That may prove to be the telling factor for City and getting the balance right on Sunday will be a tricky task for Mancini.
Still, against Villarreal he showed no fear of changing tactics when things were not going to plan and in that aspect, and the ability to draw a late winner from his team, he has shown qualities that mimic his United adversary Sir Alex Ferguson.