Preview: Manchester United v City

Maybe I’m being a little optimistic, but it could be time for the media and everyone else to move on from Adebayor as we have the small matter of a trip to Old Trafford this weekend. What should have seen us venturing over to Stretford with the strongest comparable squad to our rivals since the 70’s, has been undermined by the lack of available strikers.

We are of course brimful of confidence following our 100% start to the season, but so were Spurs when they took on United last week.

The absence of Adebayor along with Robinho and Santa Cruz appears to have left Hughes considering at rushing Tevez back. This could be unwise for several reasons:

  • Tevez isn’t suited to playing as a lone striker (lacking either height or pace), therefore doing a straight swap of Tevez for Adebayor is likely to make little impression on Vidic and Ferdinand.
  • Bellamy has successfully played as a lone striker in the past, utilising his pace, movement and energy to stretch a defence.
  • Moving Bellamy to centre-forward and introducing Petrov on the wing may weaken us defensively, but will give us an extra attacking threat. Petrov looks to be bursting for first team action and his long raking passes could be a crucial weapon in releasing Bellamy on the break.
  • A half fit Tevez would struggle in a normal Premier League fixture. United are hardly likely to go easy on him in this one.
  • Last season, Hughes brought back players from injury to quickly (eg. Richards, Benjani and Kompany) and it was counter-productive. We don’t want to see Tevez aggravate the injury and be out for longer.

If Tevez is deemed fit enough, a substitutes role should be as much as we can expect of him. There has been talk of introducing Zabaleta to the midfield. While this would give us additional strength tackling in the middle, the team would be left unbalanced. Would Ireland or Barry play on the left side of midfield? Ireland has been put there before and was clearly out of position. Barry lacks the pace to go on the flank, either as full-back or winger. In addition, the absence of his calm head and excellent distribution from the middle would leave us resembling the team that lost so limply in last seasons fixture.

With the rise of City, Manchester derbies are no longer just a local matter. The fixture is now resonating across the whole footballing globe, as illustrated by the number of column inches given to the build-up alone. Players on both sides have been queuing up to give their opinions.

Listening to all their positivity and collective confidence is becoming overwhelming and made me wonder what it would be like to hear someone say, “I fancy us to get trounced. Don’t think we’ve got a chance in this one.” Sadly that’s probably a criminal offence in this age of mediaspeak and sports psychology.

Given our lack of strikers, we should be looking to keep it tight and put our faith in the defensive qualities of the newly acquired Toure and Lescott, with de Jong and Barry providing cover in front. Barry’s measured passing will be crucial in helping us retain possession, and instigate attacks on the break.

Possible line-up: Given, Richards, Bridge, Toure, Lescott, Barry, de Jong, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Petrov, Bellamy

Prediction: 2-1 to City