With the Manchester derby fast approaching I decided to look at what Manchester United have to do to go to the Etihad and get a result against the current Premier League champions. United will need to do better than last season when they faced Manchester City, losing home and away and enduring one of the clubs most embarrassing defeats in recent times, the 6 – 1 loss at Old Trafford.
Iron out those defensive frailties.
United's defensive problems have been well documented in recent weeks. Their display against Reading confirming that the Red Devils rear guard is no longer the impenetrable fortress it once was. This is due to many factors. The constant chopping and changing of United's goal keeper is one of them, the fact that Rio Ferdinand is now 34 is another. Many would also argue that the absence of club captain Nemanja Vidic is to blame for United's defensive frailties.
However, United need to put these problems behind them and focus on keeping out City's talented attacking players. The experience of Rio Ferdinand will be vital in this game. He may have lost a yard or two of pace but his positioning and ability to read the game means he is a must in United's starting XI. Ferdinand should be paired with England international Chris Smalling. The youngster is good with his feet and has an eye good pass, he also has the ability to bring the ball out from defence and feed the Red Devils midfield, much like Ferdinand in his prime.
Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs should not start together.
The pair are Manchester United legends, a rare breed of player who have committed themselves to United their entire careers. But with both players in the twilight of their careers there is no place in United's starting XI for both veterans. Scholes may start in midfield due to injuries, with Anderson and Cleverly both looking doubtful. But with both players on the pitch United's midfield would be far to slow to cope with Manchester City.
Shinji Kagawa is reportedly close to returning and could feature for United against City. The Japan international would be the ideal candidate to start in the United midfield. Utilising Ferguson's new diamond formation.
Play Wayne Rooney at the top of a midfield diamond.
Wayne Rooney has been vital to Manchester United's success in recent years and has played with whoever and where ever Sir Alex Ferguson has asked him to. But with the arrival of Robin van Persie and with Javier Hernandez being in fine form, it is more than likely Rooney will be asked to take up an attacking midfield role just being the two strikers, at the top of a diamond formation. I for one would like to see Rooney take up a permanent role here. He has more than enough ability to succeed in this position. He has the strength and power to keep the ball and has the ability to ping long range passes all over the pitch, much in the style of Paul Scholes. Rooney will still maintain his strikers instinct, though, and find himself running into the box to get on the end of crosses and pick up those second balls.
Phil Jones should start against Manchester City.
Although Manchester United lost against Cluj in the Champions League, there were positives to take out of the game. Phil Jones impressive display at right back was one of those positives. The youngster is good in possession and is always willing to make lung-busting runs up the flank, as demonstrated against Cluj, Jones put in a number of superb crosses and linked up well Rooney on the right of United's midfield. Playing Jones against City would also give United better defensive cover. Rafael has made a huge amount of progress in recent months but put in a poor defensive display against Reading. Jones would give Sir Alex someone who is more physically capable of handling Manchester City's strength and power.
Sir Alex will be well aware of all the points I have made in this article and is no doubt trying to figure out who, where and in what formation he should send his Red Devils out in against Manchester City. But the one thing above all else, that he will be telling his players, is that a repeat performance of Saturdays defensive debacle against Reading will put them on a one way street to defeat.
What do you think United need to do to get a win against Manchester City on Sunday?
Leave a comment below and let me know!