The Big Match Tactical View: Manchester United v Manchester City

Manchester City need a big performance from David Silva
Manchester City need a big performance from David Silva
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The timing of this Manchester derby is excellent - with United ahead of City in the Premier League table for the first time this season, it should be a fascinating clash. Michael Cox considers the tactical battle, while professional trader Alan Thompson provides the betting lowdown...

"United have won 10 of their last 11 at home, while City have lost their last three away"

Back Manchester United at 2.747/4

Manchester United v Manchester City
Sunday, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports 1

Match Odds: Manchester United 2.747/4 v Manchester City 2.8415/8, The Draw 3.55/2

Manchester United go into Sunday's derby against Manchester City as favourites - which summarises the two sides' differing form. United have spent most of the season scrapping for the Champions League places while City were supposedly title contenders...but as United have found form, City have slumped - and it's now Louis van Gaal's side in better shape, and higher in the table.

After a season spent experimenting with different formations and personnel, Van Gaal finally appears to have stumbled upon a cohesive shape. It would be hugely surprising to see major changes for this match, because various parts of the side are working excellently.

Wayne Rooney is banging in the goals, Marouane Fellaini is supporting him from a peculiar, deep-lying target man role, while Ander Herrera and Juan Mata have developed a good relationship to the right.

On the opposite flank, Ashley Young is in good form and will track Pablo Zabaleta's runs, while Michael Carrick is the right type of player for facing the threat of David Silva, likely to drift inside from the flank.

The only player with a vague chance of breaking into the midfield and attack is Angel Di Maria. Manchester United's record signing has been underwhelming in recent months, although Van Gaal might like the idea of playing him up against his compatriot Zabaleta.

Manuel Pellegrini's biggest task will be motivating his players. When Manchester City have nothing to play for, they're capable of alarming collapses. This might be a Manchester derby, but whether that means much to their players remains to be seen - it wouldn't be a huge surprise if they turned in a feeble, half-hearted performance. For this reason alone, they're probably underpriced.

As ever, Pellegrini must decide whether to start one striker or two. Wilfried Bony missed Monday night's defeat at Crystal Palace but should return to the side here, presumably meaning a 4-4-2 with he and Sergio Aguero upfront. James Milner always plays well against United and should start here, with Fernandinho and Yaya Toure in the middle.

Pellegrini's main concern will be the challenge of Rooney and Fellaini. This is an improbable combination - the little man leading the line, the big man playing just behind, and it remains to be seen how City cope. Fellaini has been intelligent in positioning himself in a pocket of space in the inside-left position, which could cause problems. Does Vincent Kompany come forward to meet him? Does Fernandinho drop back to mark him, then opening up space for Carrick to dictate the game? It's a problem no-one has truly solved.

Rooney is another player who's caused Kompany positional problems, too, with his drifts into deeper positions. The problem with Rooney coming deep in this system, though, is that the team lacks someone with outright pace to run beyond him - which is maybe where Di Maria comes into the equation.

City's strength, on paper, lies with the combinations Silva can create - with Milner's constant running, with Aguero's bursts in behind, with Toure marauding forward through the centre. Manchester United can be prone to pace in behind, and aren't particularly good at coping with clever movement when their defence is high up the pitch. Marcos Rojo can get too tight, and be turned.

I think United are an excellent price here, however. They've won 10 of their last 11 at home, while City have lost their last three on the road. United are playing with confidence and determination, while City have slumped in the second half of the campaign. I'll back United strongly at 2.747/4.

Recommended Bet
Back Manchester United at 2.747/4

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

With Just seven games remaining there wouldn’t have been many people that would have had Manchester United above their local rivals in the league table – me included! I couldn’t even have Manchester United in the top four just a few weeks ago based on their performances, I thought they would get “found out” eventually. I couldn’t have been more wrong as my top four finish market position keeps reminding me!

The Red Devils have an outstanding home record this season, they have picked up 40 points this campaign from their 16 games and have won 10 of their last 11 starts at Old Trafford, the defeat in that sequence was also the only game they failed to score in (0-1 Southampton).

City now sit fourth in the league after losing their last three in a row on the road, they haven’t lost four consecutive away games since September 2006. However, with recent defeats at Burnley and Crystal Palace and the usually reliable Sergio Aguero having a real barren spell (no goals in his last six games) United could be getting them at a great time.

When United have played top-six sides at home so far they comprehensively beat Tottenham and Liverpool (both games 3-0) and drew 1-1 with Chelsea. I don’t see United losing this with the form they are in and they will want to halt the recent run of blue success in Manchester (City have won the last four league meetings).

I will be backing United @ 2.7 to win but also the last five meetings between these two at Old Trafford have all resulted in an over 2.5 scoreline. I think there is value in the Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 but I will be taking on the risk of their being a very early goal by placing a keep bet on over 2.5 goals to get matched at @ 2.3 in running.

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