With Manchester United keen to avenge their 6-1 defeat last season and with Manchester City yet to secure second place, Monday night’s game may not be the damp squib many expect. There are odds of 2.15 for a home win; City are 3.20 to grab an away win.
Sure, with United 15 points clear at the top heading into the game, this encounter isn’t perhaps the title decider that many had hoped for but if previous Manchester derbies are anything to go by, it should be a great game.
Both teams have terrific players who have been some of the best in recent Premier League seasons. There are numerous key battles and so we will take a look at some of the most crucial.
Carrick vs. Yaya Toure:
Michael Carrick is enjoying arguably his finest season in a United shirt, with questions over his £18m price tag finally fading into the background. Yaya Toure, meanwhile, has lit up the Premier League with his trademark bursts forwards since joining City from Barcelona.
The two will be vital to their team’s plans and here’s why:
Both players operate in similar areas of the pitch, but with differing styles. Toure is at his most effective when he coasts past players, drawing defenders towards him in the process. Carrick’s passing ability is unrivalled, particularly this season and with 37% of his passes in a forward direction, he will be United’s driving force from the middle of the pitch.
With Toure’s endeavour though comes inherent risk. He’s lost possession 22 times this season compared to Carrick’s 12 and has been dispossessed 30 times compared to Carrick’s 17.
Of course, playing the way he does is more likely to result in a loss of possession but with United’s counter-attacking ability, Toure and City will have to be wary.
United’s first and second goals at the Etihad in December illustrate this threat perfectly and with the second in particular, it was Carrick’s precise pass out wide which began United’s attack.
On the other hand, Manchester United will have to be equally prepared to deal with Toure’s lung-bursting runs, because the Ivorian will wreak havoc if not marked properly.
Twinned with Toure’s runs is his ability to be creative at the end of them. Toure has created 40 chances compared to Carrick’s 28 this season, which demonstrates his importance to City.
Toure creates a clear-cut chance for his teammates every 281 minutes, far superior to Carrick with 604 minutes.
If Toure has a strong game, the Manchester United duo of Cleverley and Carrick will be hard pressed to contain the marauding Ivorian.
Van Persie vs. Kompany:
Much has been made of Robin van Persie’s failure to score for United in his last 9 games. But with Sir Alex Ferguson backing van Persie to better his already impressive ratio of 0.58 goals per game, the Dutchman remains integral to United’s attack.
City will be buoyed by Vincent Kompany’s recent return from injury and the Belgian will be charged with the task of suppressing van Persie and co.
Van Persie scored three goals for Holland during the most recent international break and had his shot deflected in by Titus Bramble in United’s 1-0 victory away at Sunderland.
However, his miss in injury time is indicative of his current form, even in spite of the fact that he averages a goal every 126 minutes.
Kompany has yet to make a defensive error this season and with a tackle success rate of 80%, the Belgian enforcer is as solid and reliable as any defender in world football.
Perhaps the Premier League’s two finest players in their respective positions, van Persie and Kompany will no doubt prove decisive to the outcome of the game.
Shinji Kagawa vs. David Silva:
On the flip side, Monday night’s game will boast some of the more technically gifted players in the Premier League, of whom Kagawa and Silva are two.
Silva hasn’t quite hit the heights he reached last season and has been outshone by fellow Spaniard Juan Mata in recent months. However, with 7 assists to his name this season, Silva remains crucial to City’s game plan.
The United defence hasn’t been breached since the end of January and if anyone has the ability to provide a defence-splitting pass, it’s Silva.
Only Everton’s Leighton Baines (96) has created more chances than Silva (88) this season.
United’s answer to the diminutive Spaniard is Shinji Kagawa, a player who has shown glimpses of the form which saw him voted Bundesliga player of the season last year.
His hat-trick against Norwich comprised skill and agility in equal measure, culminating in a wonderfully dinked finish to claim the match ball.
Kagawa does average a goal every 181 minutes compared to Silva’s 538 minutes, although his hat-trick perhaps skews this stat.
In terms of creativity, Silva’s creating a chance every 24 minutes, outdoing Kagawa with an average of 60 minutes.
Silva is the more clinical player and has the better end-product at the moment. However, Silva’s decline compared to last season is mirrored by Kagawa’s improved form in this second half of the season.
Perhaps Monday night’s game will highlight just how important both players are…
Vincent Kompany expressed his belief that the winner of Monday night’s game will be crowned the “champions of Manchester”.
Mind games, perhaps, but with the title not riding on the game there is every chance that the players will be able to enjoy some freedom.
There will be numerous key battles across the pitch and in this article we have looked at just three.
Maybe, just maybe, the biggest battle will be one we haven’t looked at: Ferguson vs. Mancini.
1st goal to van Persie: 6.50
Rooney to score 1st: 7.00
More than 3.5 goals: 2.90
3-2 to MUFC: 21.00
3-2 to MCFC: 26.00