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Midfield battle key to Manchester derby clash

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 18:47 UK time, Friday, 27 April 2012

As seismic as it may be for Manchester City to win their first top-flight championship in 44 years, thereby denying their arch rivals Manchester United, both teams will be concentrating first on keeping 11 players on the field when they lock horns on Monday at Etihad Stadium.

Ignoring the Community Shield, previous encounters this season have involved a man being sent off, with Jonny Evans seeing red in City's 6-1 rout at Old Trafford and Vincent Kompany dismissed during United's 3-2 FA Cup victory across town.

Both punishments had an adverse effect on the respective games, although City did stage a fight-back in the second half of the third-round cup tie following their skipper's first-half departure.

So with City three points behind United and needing the win far more than their neighbours, how will managers Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson prepare their teams ahead of the potentially historic derby?

Former United midfielder Nicky Butt and ex-City striker Uwe Rosler assess the key contests on the pitch and explain where they think the game will be won and lost.

City's attack versus United's defence

Of both team's back fours, United's looks the more vulnerable. Having conceded four goals against Everton last Sunday, questions have re-appeared about the form of Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra.

Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez have been a potent partnership for Manchester City

That is harsh, according to Butt, on a defence which has the best record in the Premier League for clean sheets (18) and is second only to City in terms of goals conceded (32 to City's 27).

But up against the top-flight's leading scorers they will have a far sterner test in contrast to their previous seven games which have all been against teams in the bottom half of the table. Mancini has also hinted he might recall Mario Balotelli, scorer of two goals in the 6-1 victory.

"The defence has been outstanding over the last few months," Butt says. "It wasn't great against Everton but I think that was down to not defending as a unit rather than the individual players. They showed some weakness there but also naivety in the way they did not shut up shop.

"City strikers Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez are top-class players but when you are a top player, like all the Manchester United defence and midfield are, you thrive on playing against better players."

Rosler believes City's attacking options are enough to win the game but says: "The key to it is that City keep their nerve. Everybody connected with Manchester City knows there is enough quality in the team and enough experience there, and it's all about bringing those thoughts to the match."

The midfield battle

City's FA Cup semi-final victory over United last season came when Mancini chose to let Yaya Toure off the leash and play him in a five-man midfield behind Balotelli. And in the rousing Old Trafford victory this term Mancini struck a fine balance by pairing Balotelli and Aguero up front, with James Milner adding defensive cover in wide midfield areas.

Part of City's success in that encounter was how Milner and David Silva were more willing than United's wide men to cross the pitch to overload opposite wings, thereby creating an extra man in midfield without sacrificing an attacker.

But against Everton, United winger Nani showed he can pop up in danger areas across the pitch and Butt says the Portuguese underlined his status as a big game player in that game and will keep his place.

Nani could give United more attacking options across the pitch

The question now is whether the City boss will go a step further and maintain a recent midfield of Toure, Gareth Barry, Silva and Samir Nasri.

Needing a win, it is certainly the most attacking option but recent history between the two teams would suggest the Italian might be more cautious to begin with. And if that is the case, will Ferguson also attempt to bolster central areas by asking Wayne Rooney to play a deeper role?

"I'm concerned about the United midfield being outnumbered," Butt says. "City are very strong in there and I think United will have to match up with them."

Mancini will have studied the Everton draw when the Toffees' five-man midfield swarmed around Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes. However, the City boss will be wary of United's threats, too.

Winger Antonio Valencia, who did not play at Old Trafford last time, and Scholes have been catalysts for United in their run of 12 wins in the last 15 league games.

United's attack versus City's defence

As solid as City look when skipper Kompany is in the side, he and his fellow defenders will have to be on top form to deal with the twin threat of Danny Welbeck and Rooney.

Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck are combining well for United

According to former United right-back Gary Neville, against Everton the pair were reminiscent of former strikers Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole in their pomp. The England duo have registered 35 goals and eight assists between them in the Premier League this season to go with the three they scored against City in January's FA Cup win.

Butt says the pair are "forming a great partnership" yet Rosler thinks City have enough quality to deal with them and believes it is his former team's destiny to win the title.

"Looking from a manager's point of view, when I see the management working with a group of players and guiding the club, you see a natural progression via the style of play, the results and where they are over the whole season," he says.

"Everybody else thought it was over, but I always said from the beginning of the season that this year is our year. For some reason I believe in destiny.

"When Everton came back to get a draw against United, that was the opener for us. Now we have to make sure we use that second chance. Everybody is prepared and knows what is at stake. I can't just wait for the game to start on Monday."

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  • Comment number 1.

    Great and intimate analysis. And here are the basic statistics to back you, Alistair.
    The top 4 scorers of ManU and MCity contribute 61.6% and 62.1% to their respective teams’ BPL goals scored. Which implies that attacking force capability about equal.

    However, looking at the average goal difference per match shows that ManU had 1.54 goals per match versus MCity’s 1.71 goals per match. MCity is 11% significantly better than ManU.

    One way ManU can prevail is to use the midfielders to increase the variety of attacking options and to use them to buttress the defence.

  • Comment number 2.

    Psychology will be the key to this, stats, computer simulation and pontification will not seperate them. Mind set will sort this out.

  • Comment number 3.

    As a Man Utd fan I think the key to this game is how Fergie approaches it tactically. Put simply, I think Utd are much better in big games when playing more of a 4-5-1, rather than 4-4-2.

    Back in the 2008/09 season we were comfortably ahead in the title race when we played Liverpool at home in March. We played 4-4-2 and got beat 4-1. That was with Ronaldo and Tevez in the side. Since their departure I think Fergie has tended to play 4-4-2 even more frequently (before they left Rooney would often be played off the left, but now he's always up front and usually with a partner - Hernandez, Welbeck or Berba). I think most of our big game defeats can be put down to the 4-4-2 system used and our midfield not possessing two central midfielders of enough quality to pull it off. Last season there were a number of these defeats: away to Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, and of course the Barcelona final. The 6-1 City result and 4-4 against Everton are prime examples from this season. On both occasions our four-man midfield wasn't able to control the game and/or wasn't providing enough protection to the back four.

    If I see the line-up on Monday and it has Rooney up top with Welbeck or Hernandez, I believe City will be strong favourites to win, as they are a powerful side who should be able to wrestle control of the game.

  • Comment number 4.

    The performance in midfield will be key but the attacking players will need to play there role tomorrow. So much emphasis has been placed on this game that a tight encounter could be the result if the star players don't play well and create chances.

    Would be great to have a football tactics blog on guardiolas Barcelona now that he's going. Good luck to him he has done a magnificent job

  • Comment number 5.

    @ 3

    Man United need to play a 4-4-2 system as this is how they have been playing well all season and changing it now would not help. The reason it has been working this season is down to the fact that both Rooney and Welbeck will be willing to work back (in turn). In previous years United haven't had that in quite the same way. When they play with 4-5-1 United's attack is significantly weakened. It is important that Untited play the way they have been playing well and not hold for the draw. They need to go there to win, but more importantly score as I don't see City not scoring.

  • Comment number 6.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Ferguson goes with 4-4-2 again because, quite simply, it is the formation that suits our team best. I do get slightly annoyed by people always going on about 4-5-1, which is a formation that can work very well, but there is no use forcing your team to play a formation that doesn't suit them. First off, in 4-5-1 you usually have 2 defensive minded CMs with a more attacking/free-role one just in front ie. Modric, Silva, Nasri, Sneijder etc. Man Utd have none of those type of players, Rooney could do it, but he wouldn't be as effective as when is playing as a deep striker. Second, we are, arguably, the most threatening side in the world on the wings with Valencia, imo, the best out and out winger in the world, if you play 4-5-1, while you still have width, it is easier for the opposition to restrict their space as thheir two CBs only have on striker to mark, leaving the other free to cover his full backs if they have to challenge a winger.

    I suspect that Ferguson will go 4-4-2 but with Rooney being asked to play a little deeper and to drop a little back especially when defending. Which will mean a lot of work for him and he'll be rested next game.

  • Comment number 7.

    this is too close to call, but boy am i excited. Why its on a monday night though im not too sure. A day of drinking in manchester will not end well come the final whistle when one from this fierce rivalry will have won or lost the league. Tension.

    I think united may go for a 4-5-1 with Rooney playing a central midfield role. Nani on the left, Valencia on the right and (i believe) fergie may gamble on Hernandez. He's not been at his best this season but if he gets a chance he will score.

    For me Carrick is the main man in this game. he needs to stay discipline and bring his tackling and awareness to the fore against silva, Toure and Nasri.

    Come on you reds

  • Comment number 8.

    The game will be won in the midfield, you can guarantee if Tevez starts he will be dropping back into midfield and helping out, we have to make sure we don't get outnumbered there, so Rooney may have to sit a little closer to Carrick and Scholes.
    I hope Nani plays, he creates chances a lot more often than Young, although Young does carry a goal threat as well. Valencia needs to get those crosses spot on as well.
    I wouldn't be surprised if Mancini approaches this game extremely defensively though.

  • Comment number 9.

    A few season ago, after Ronaldo and Tevez had left, we would only play 4-5-1/4-3-3 but the last 14 months or so, we play 4-4-2 (or 4-4-1-1 to be a bit more precise) pretty much exclusively. Which was brilliant in Europe last year (as we swept aside Chelsea and Schalke) but our midfield seemed to be bypassed with a single ball. I said at the very start of the season when we beat City at the Community Shield- Anderson and Cleverley, great, but what about in games when we aren't more or less camped in the opposition half? We saw against Arsenal and Chelsea (at OT) that the opposition could have scored 5 or 6 goals and it took City to knock 6 past us to realise that we can't afford to be leaving so much space in midfield. People talk about Carrick as a defensive mid, he isn't one. He is the deep lying playmaker, Carrick should look to attack more, there aren't many that have his ball carrying ability and ball striking ability off both feet. He isn't an Owen Hargreaves, he isn't going to close down the opposition with the enthusiasm of a Gattusso. But what he bring with Scholes is that we keep possesion better. In fact, the game vs Everton was very similar to the 3-3 draw at Goodison last season. We went 1-0 down in that game, got back to 3-1 by wresting control from Everton and overpowering their midfield and eventually conceding late (and very preventable) goals. And further evidence of how good Scholes has been with possesion was evident against Wigan when he wasn't playing! Our midfield was often easily bypassed with a single ball and we just weren't able to keep hold of the ball. So that's why with Scholes I feel we can go 2 in central midfield but with anyone else, maybe not so.

    The United team I think of- De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Rio, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Nani, Rooney, Welbeck I feel can get a result. The workrate that Rooney and Welbeck often compensate for not having 3 in central midfield.

    Also raises another point, can United go back to being one of the best in Europe (as have undoubtly been for the last 5 years, apart from this season) without having a combative midfielder? More and more often we see 4-5-1/4-3-3 from the big teams that can essentially split into 5-5 formations. I think United are the only big team in Europe that doesn't really employ this tactic, mainly because we are probably the only team that relies generally on our fantastic wingers!

  • Comment number 10.

    SO NERVOUS AND IT'S ONLY SATURDAY. I have no idea if I'll even be able to watch the game, which makes it so much worse.

    City no doubt have the more talented XI but if that were so significant, they would have won the title by now. Someone mentioned 4-4-2 vs 4-5-1 and I still don't know what I'd pick. Welbeck and Rooney linked up so well last week and yes, we will need to score. However, whenever we play 4-4-2 we sometimes get picked apart easily, so I'd see it as a knockout tie in which we won the first leg at home - say 3-2 (not 6-1)

    I would personally play 4-2-3-1
    De Gea Jones Evans Ferdinand Evra
    Carrick Scholes
    Nani Valencia
    Young floating behind Rooney with Welbeck's pace an option from the bench.

    However, it is more likely to be a case of mind over matter, and my mind is shot to pieces. I wrote the below after our 1-0 win over Fulham and the same applies even now.

  • Comment number 11.

    Not sure how Mancini's mind-games have worked (if they have at all) but they seem to be doing the trick.

    So read this if you want, sorry for spamming. I say sorry, it won't stop me doing it again, it just gives me more sympathy and makes me look less awful when I beg for your attention and laughs.

  • Comment number 12.

    Oops, schoolboy error. - there it is anyway!

  • Comment number 13.

    IMO the sides will be

    Richards Kompany Lescott Clichy

    Toure Y Barry
    Silva Nasri

    Rooney Welbeck

    Young Carrick Scholes Valencia

    Evra Ferdinand Evans Rafael

    De Gea

    If City keep 11 on the pitch, they win.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think the fact that united's defence was all over the place against everton was a blessing because you just know that fergie will have it sorted out for monday night.

    If balotelli has anything to do with the match then city are scuppered because he may/may not produce moments of brilliance and you always take the risk of him getting red carded and just generally giving away silly free kicks.

    I think that united have to play 4-4-2 because the rooney welbeck partnership has been fantastic and you know they have plenty of goals in them.

    I don't think that united will play too differently to how they played against everton except by asking the 2 central midfielders to be a bit more defensive minded, and playing park and valencia on the wings who you know will work hard and track back.

    As for city, it's their choice. For united, ferdinand and vidic were a superb partnership because you had vidic who would clear anything entering the box in the air, and ferdinand who could read the intricate passing and defend well against those kind of situations. Jonny Evans is a good defender but he isn't like vidic who will clear arial balls into the box, he's more like ferdinand. As I say, city have a choice. Either play their intricate passing game which would be playing to the strengths of the likes of silva and nasri, or put balls in the box using width that can be given from the full backs, clichy and co.

    It's a tough one to predict but I think that united are psychologically stronger and bearing that in mind, I see the city defence letting the occasion get to them and making some crucial errors, as after all, united know that if they lose the title is far from lost, but if city lose, it's game over. I predict 3-1 united.

  • Comment number 15.

    Well I mentioned a few weeks ago the pendulum starting to swing Man City's way. It definitely has swung this time no doubts.
    What now for United?
    On the positive side, a draw would suffice, they don't need to go attacking in waves, which could be the key factor.
    City on the flip side need to win, but they're in familiar territory, in a fortress where they've only dropped 2 points in the league, nevertheless they've already been beaten at the Etihad and by Man United. I think they'll have taken that into consideration.
    Having said that, as a United fan, I'm hoping for a win but expecting a tight draw with goals. I'm hoping for a defensive line-up with a 5 man midfield, but I'm expecting SAF to go for a win, and stick to the same side than the one that played against Everton.
    If SAF changes his team around, psychologically it'd mean they weren't good enough so for the opposition it'd mean well great we have a chance. City'd relish that for sure, I don't think Fergie will want to tinker around at this pivotal stage.
    Nonetheless, I think he has to tighten his defense with a more physical challenge, and play Jones and Carrick in the middle with Scholes dropping off Rooney.
    I can see United scoring first and City pegging them back to ensure a very tight finish but I expect United to hang on to the precious point they'll need.
    Odds on then....

  • Comment number 16.

    City are not only the strongest team, they're also the ones in form, at home and with it all to play for. This is shaping up to be the season where Manchester United lost an eight points lead with six games to go. City will win on Monday, and they'll go top of the Premier League. Barring a slip-up at Newcastle, they'll be Premiership champions come the end of May. United are crumbling. Ferguson is losing the plot.

    Is this the end of an era? I certainly hope so.

  • Comment number 17.

    Expect United to park the bus, similar to how they did in the 3-2 defeat where Kompany was unfairly dismissed in January. They just sat back then and tried to play on the break, first time they went in our half they scored. We could well have Hart, Barry, Yaya and Tevez playing who weren't then and I definately think we should go for Aguero and Tevez as the partnership has blossomed recently. Hope we win, going to be very nervous come Monday, but think how weve performed over the season has showed were the best side and deserve to win the title, while theyve been poor and have needed Scholes and the refs to get them to this point. Still be tough if we win, with Newcastle away but fingers crossed we do the job on Monday, (an early goal should lure them out and hopefully we can get a few :)

    C'mon you bluesss!!!!

  • Comment number 18.

    16.At 17:09 28th Apr 2012, rxx2jp wrote:
    City are not only the strongest team, they're also the ones in form, at home and with it all to play for. This is shaping up to be the season where Manchester United lost an eight points lead with six games to go. City will win on Monday, and they'll go top of the Premier League. Barring a slip-up at Newcastle, they'll be Premiership champions come the end of May. United are crumbling. Ferguson is losing the plot.

    Is this the end of an era? I certainly hope so.


    Completely agree, needed ref decisions vs Fulham and QPR to even get them to 8 points clear, but I'm sure the prem will be glad to see them lose on Monday and the decline really begin

  • Comment number 19.

    My biggest worry is Rafael against Silva. Also even if United are 3-0 ahead (can't see this by the way), he will switch off as he did against Everton and Bilbao. He can be complacent and a liability as a result. Newcastle appear to be ending the season badly again after today's result so City could get a result there after all. It all depends if City beat United or not on Monday. I'd they do fair play. If they don't it's Uniteds.

  • Comment number 20.

    By the way, I'm philosophical about this as United fan. If united win or draw then its number 20 in the bag, but Fergie will think all is still rosy in the garden. If we lose, at least everyone will wake up and smell the coffee and realise that this United team is in desperate need of several new players in key areas,if we are to challenge for anything next season. however, I can't see how City can get better!

  • Comment number 21.

    Yaya Toure vs Paul Scholes. Now we will find out just how good Scholes still is as he is facing the very best in this game.

    City to win for me, it will be tight but City have so much fire-power and Everton scored four against United last time out.......

  • Comment number 22.

    How wonderful it is to see so many people write off Manchester United and expect some decline. It couldn't be better knowing that is exactly the point they usually obliterate the detractors.

    The fact is, City have blown an absolute fortune and even in the weakest premier league in at least a decade against the weakest United side in at least 8 years, they are still trailing going into a crucial game.

    Manchester United have basically seen off the money of Chelsea in a free spending environment. With the financial fair play rules in effect, and United's revenue still being easily double City's even with their highly suspect sponsorship packages, nobody should be putting any money on a permanent shift in English football power no matter what the result happens to be on Monday night.

  • Comment number 23.

    With City returning to their early-season form, United fans (myself included!) have reason to worry. However, I think the frustration of the Wigan and Everton games could prove to be a blessing. My feeling is that United will take a calm, professional approach to the game, and I expect them to get at least the point they need. Midfield will be key, but if the Nani/Valencia and Rooney/Welbeck combinations are firing, I'd pick United to win this one 3-1. Add to that the fact that United are still smarting from the derby thumping earlier in the season, and I wouldn't be surprised to see us come away with an even bigger victory. Ferguson knows what he's doing, and the players will be up for it.

  • Comment number 24.


    Newcastle ending the season badly? That's their first defeat today after four stright wins-do you think Pardew will just shrug his shoulders about that & let next week's game go? Don't think so.

    The telling stats:

    least conceded at home = Citeh;10 in 17 & 5 of those in 2 games

    least conceded at home = Utd.; 14 in 17 & 6 of those in 2 games.

    If that points to 0-0 or 1-1, it might just be that way on the night. Or not.

    It is worth noting that Sunderland attacked Citeh from the off & should have won, but for a highly dodgy pen. Spurs also gave a reasonably similar display & would have at least drawn if Balotelli hadn't been on the pitch after his stamp on Parker to win & score the last-minute pen(yes, guys, Bluemooners also get their fair share of dodgy decisions). So don't count out an attack-minded line-up by Fergie on that basis alone.

  • Comment number 25.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 26.

    Yes City's midfield lineup will be the key to the Derby.
    Sunderland shows how City can be scored against (3 Goals @ Etihad Stadium) by exploiting City midfield weakness in having a pure defensive holding midfielder.

    Likewise Luke Moore for Swansea when he scored to defeat City.

    This weakness can be fully exploited by MU's style of football.
    Rooney and Welbeck has also exploited this weakness i.e. the weak underbelly of City's (the transistion gap between City's CBs and defensive holding midfielder).

    City's notion of having a pure defensive holding midfielder, who is more or less a HUMAN PYLON IMO , if they persist in fielding one will result in them losing their last chance to win the title.

    The 6-1 brilliant demolition of MU at the derby attest to that. A last minute change in the starting lineup (replacing the proverbial defensive holding midfielder with Yaya) was a brilliant stroke by Mancini.

    The rest is history!

  • Comment number 27.

    If United play Carrick with Scholes we are doomed in Midfield, whilst Carrick may be a good passer of the ball , he can not defend FACT !
    In the games against both Wigan and Everton he was sooo easily bypassed it was embarrassing, For me I would put Jones in front of the back four as protection, allowing Scholes the freedom to orchestrate the attacks from midfield.
    City like to have Silva as their pivotal midfielder and need to keep tight on him.
    So play Carrick and I'm pessimistic .. Leave him out and I'm Optimistic..!
    As long as United do not lose.. we will be in control.

  • Comment number 28.

    My preference....

    ................................ De Gea






    Valencia and Young will also give cover to our fullbacks, Jones giving cover to the back four and Scholes and Rooney having the freedom to Attack..!

  • Comment number 29.

    Patrice Evra is a terrible defender. He never makes any effort to stop crosses from coming in, he is regularly caught out of position because he is too far up the pitch and he never busts a gut to get back. He is a big weakness. Rafael is just a kid and is only learning, he gets far to tight to his man and is very, very rash he is liable to get sent off at any time in any game. I could easily see city winning the match by exploiting these two Man utd defenders.

  • Comment number 30.

    Going to be such a huge game, just hope we can get an early goal so the red bus moves out a little and we can score a few more. Hopefully united won't play completely on the counter trying to get men sent off like in Jan :P, if City get an early goal i can see a comfortable win, if united do, it could be very tight indeed, could well decide the title, nervous doesn't describe it!

  • Comment number 31.

    As a Utd fan, my Head says City and my heart says Utd.

    I can see Utd getting beaten quite comfortably if we go behind, but if we score first we have a chance, but to get a positive result I think we will need to score at least two goals.

    I think I am the only one who thinks Ballotelli would cause us more problems the Tevez and Aguero, big strikers have bullied us this season, both in Europe and at home, well that's my views anyway

  • Comment number 32.

    The main place i see city being able to exploit is rafael. on his day he can be excellent but for me he is to inconsistent, in the summer i think our priority should be a right back. the only way i see us being able to deal with our RB problem is a bit out there, but we have it used it before.

    i think our team should be de gea valencia evans ferdinand evra nani scholes carrick jones giggs rooney

    the idea being playing jones just ahead of the the 2 CBs to provide some security ( maybe only in numbers for those of you who doubt his ability) also he can interchange with valencia going to rb letting valencia go rm and pushing nani further forward, cnahging to a 4-4-2 formation. if needed removing nani or giggs for welbeck for a more permanent change. the people who are going crazy about valencia playing rb, calm down imo hed do a better job than rafael hes more controlled and has one of the best work rates in the prem without conceding constant fk's and he still keeps his fantastic atacking ability. carrick and scholes will have to be prepared to drop back and play the penetrating passes out wide and to rooney rather than the rapid pass and move we like to play against smaller prem teams. nani can provide a moment of genius more likely than young and giggs is nescessary because of his experience. and rooneys just rooney.

    i think we have to keep a rigid back line we dont want evans goin out wide he needs to stay central along with ferdinand let the winger help out the fullbacks and jones would cover for cb's . and overall i know we all want to give city a battering for the 6-1 but if we play too attacking and lose then city will probs win the league and preventing that is more important than revenge, they won that battle but a draw is enough for us to win the war.

    finally to any city fans that think johnny evans is a poor defender then ask yourself how a team with a player ,ive heard described by city fans as not good enough to play in the chamionship, is beating you by 3 points with 3 games left. dont bring up fergie time or penalty decisions when youve got dzecko and balotelli won and scored a pen when he shouldnt be on the pitch.

  • Comment number 33.

    just wanted to post on here for the first time as its very nice to see the comments on here are not nasty and are pleasent to read you go on msn and all you see if pathetic idiots tearing lumps out of each other. will be using this site much more often thankyou everybody. bye the way city win 3-1 and take the league title. also fair play rules mean utd should be relegated to championship as they owe more than the fair play rules allow. but what will happen?

  • Comment number 34.

    Just to add to my recent post, if SAF starts with Giggs, then I thin we've had it, just a thought!!!!

  • Comment number 35.

    Without the Man Utd board paying the refs, fergie's diving academy, incredibly more amounts of luck than any other team, and Mancini's incompetance this title would have been finished by christmas. If City lose this title then they will have to think about replacing Mancini and taking a leaf out of United's book.

  • Comment number 36.

    "even in the weakest premier league in at least a decade"

    Couldn't agree more. This years standard has been shocking. I've witnessed some great teams over the years, to name a few, United 99, Arsenal 03, Chelsea 05 and United 07/08. But the last couple of seasons have been very poor, and I bet City will be kicking themselves if they miss out on the title.

  • Comment number 37.

    On occasion, Sir AF baffles and bemuses with selection and tactics. On this occasion however, I don't think so... Utd will get the point or the win that should seal the title.

    For all the analysis and potential selections, Utd simply know how to handle these domestic occasions, City don't, yet.

    City to win the PL in the next year or two - more than likely. City to win on Monday? I can see Scholes and Carrick enjoying more space, time and freedom than anyone thought possible at the Etihad. Why? Passing accuracy under pressure.

  • Comment number 38.

    hi dan man united fan i agree with the battle in midfield being key i also think the personel selected for both teams will be key cityif he is not pushed likely to have at least two holding players toure barry and or dejong i think they may go with one outright striker nasri in the playmaker role pulling the strings with silva and johnson on flanks also key player up the right hand side for them at old trafford was micah richards and if he is not pushed back by either young or nani on left then he could be key also united will have to try and overlap fullbacks themselves to try and push city back but for the attacking options city possess id like to see vidic return for united with ferdinand jones at right back evra left valencia scholes carrick giggs young rooney would be my team giggs can get forward and help but also has expierience to keep it simple like scholes in midfield will allow carricks younger legs to do running the two vetrans to pick the passes through the middle and dictate play and young and valencia to focus on feeding rooney also gives rooney more license to play where he prefers through the middle and that for me could be the match winnning tactic for united also scholes and giggs expierience they will be patient and wait for the opening rather than trying to force it and make mistakes so for me carrick needs to try and break up play scholes and giggs command the centre by intercepting and keeping possession and stopping man citys big guns getting the ball will tire them with this formation i cas see united counter attacking and winning 2-1 which in turn will all but hand them the title cracking game in the offing though cant wait to see which way it swings.

  • Comment number 39.

    Let's not forget United were by far the better side in the 6-1 defeat until Evans went off. I would go 4-5-1 with Scholes, Carrick and Cleverley in the middle to stop City playing their little one twos and keep the game as wide as possible with Nani and Valencia. City are not good when you press them.

    I wouldn't play Welbeck, his touch is appalling and I pray to god he doesn't even put Park anywhere near the bench.

    Prediction: 1-3

  • Comment number 40.

    I am a united fan and I have no idea who is going to win, let the games begin!

  • Comment number 41.

    For ManU, how about Wellbeck & Chicarito flanked by Nani & Valencia, backed by Scholes & Carrick(?), with Rooney wherever the ball is? This way the midfield might be able to cope.

    (The partnership in front of goal between Wellbeck and Chicarito might be good also, and we just haven't seen it yet.)

  • Comment number 42.

    Okay just realised that would leave room for only three defenders. Then again Wigan did that and destroyed Newcastle, why not go there and neutralise the goal difference! Come on United!

  • Comment number 43.

    Let's not forget United were by far the better side in the 6-1 defeat until Evans went off


    not really, you may have had the better of the opening 20 minutes, but after that we came back into it - similar to last years FA Cup semi - and to suggest that until the second half and going down to 10 you were the better side is ridiculous, it was very even at half time and we started the second half better.

    Yeah ok mate, try pressing us, don't park the bus like you did in January and play on the break, come at us and see what happens, it'll be a good game for the neutral.
    3-1 united ha! We'll just see what it ends up :)

  • Comment number 44.

    Re: Valencia at RB.. interesting. I think it'll work better if Young is playing RM so he can track back should AB attack break down. It also means Nani and Young could switch flanks like Giggs and Ronaldo used to do. The problem is Valencia can't really play on the left side of midfield so having Nani as his cover is scary. Perhaps Jones shoul play RB. I'd probably go with; De Gea; Jones Evans Rio Evra; Valencia Carrick Scholes Nani; Rooney Wellbeck in a 4-4-2. Plenty of width. Scholes needs to have other options than just Valencia (delicious as those passes have been). Nani needs to keep making those runs into space & he'll be found like Carrick did with an awesome pass against Everton. So glad I have the day off tomorrow to watch it live properly!! (8hrs behind in Canada)

  • Comment number 45.

    Has anyone mentioned the possibility of Ji-Sung Park playing?? He nearly always starts for United whenever they are away to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, so why tomorrow night against City??
    Personally, being a United fan, I can see City's midfield dominating the outcome of the match. If Yaya Toure can get into the game, and get the ball into the feet of Tevez and Aguero on regular occurances, then I do think Rio and Evans will struggle to defend De Gea in his goal. However, if United can stay within no more than 1 goal until the last 10mins of the game, then I feel we may be able to pinch a late goal, and snatch a draw, but the likes of Scholes and Carrick will need to be at the top of their game, and the two wingers and Rooney must track back when City are in possession.

    Predicted Line-Ups.
    City (4-2-3-1):

    Richards ... Kompany ... Lescott ... Clichy
    Y.Toure ... Barry
    Silva ... Tevez ... Nasri
    Subs that could come on: Kolarov, Milner, A.Johnson, Balotelli, Dzeko.
    United (4-4-1-1):

    de Gea
    Smalling ... Ferdinand ... Evans ... Evra
    Valencia ... Carrick ... Scholes ... Park
    Subs that could come on: Jones, Giggs, Cleverley, Young, Nani, Hernandez.

    Prediction: 1-1

  • Comment number 46.

    24.At 19:16 28th Apr 2012, kickoutthejams wrote:

    Newcastle ending the season badly? That's their first defeat today after four stright wins-do you think Pardew will just shrug his shoulders about that & let next week's game go? Don't think so.


    Six straight wins actually. That said I don't expect us to get a result on Sunday, all season our runs have been based on (mostly) beating those we 'should' do, and struggling against the big teams (3-0 Man Utd being the outstanding exception). We're where we are because everyone else from 3rd and down keep doing the opposite and slipping up against the 'small' teams.


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