Manchester United: Team News and Potential Starting XI vs. Manchester City

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IIDecember 7, 2012

READING, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01:  Anderson of Manchester United celebrates scoring a goal with teammate Ashley Young during the Barclays Premier League match between Reading and Manchester United at Madejski Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Reading, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

For Manchester United, it doesn't come much bigger than a clash against rivals Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the English Premier League on Sunday.

Following the heartbreak that Sir Alex Ferguson's men experienced at the hands of Roberto Mancini, the Red Devils know the seriousness and significance that their local derbies carry, and that this one here is no exception to that.

United currently lead City on the Premier League table by just three points, meaning a win to the home side could see them jump back into first place overall. A win for United, however, would see them move six points clear on top of the table and in a commanding position heading into Christmas.

The Red Devils have a number of key players unavailable for this one, which will determine the squad that they field on Sunday—read on for all the last-minute team news and potential starting side for when they do battle against Manchester City.


Antonio Valencia

Manchester United star winger Antonio Valencia has been ruled out of Sunday's match against Manchester City, with Sir Alex Ferguson stating via the club's official website that both he and Portuguese international winger Nani will be out for a couple of weeks more.

I know we've got a few injuries at the moment but we've got a big strong squad of players. Nani and [Antonio] Valencia are still out. It will be a few weeks with them.

The news means that United are severely depleted side—missing several of the players that they would have liked to have start against Manchester City.


Shinji Kagawa

Thought to only be out until the start of December, Japanese international Shinji Kagawa will also not be available for United here, with Sir Alex Ferguson stating via the club's official website that it will some time still before they see Kagawa back on the pitch.

I thought [Shinji] Kagawa may have done enough to make the bench on Wednesday but no, he’s well short. But I don't think he'll be available until the Sunderland game [next weekend in the Premier League].


Nemanja Vidic

Manchester United captain and star defender Nemanja Vidic was rumored during the week to be fit enough to play against Manchester City this week, but the Serbian international will remain sidelined according to Sir Alex Ferguson.

[Nemanja] Vidic has certainly been doing well in training and it suits his own confidence to play but I think the game on Sunday is a bit soon for him. I think he'll be ready for Sunderland.


Tom Cleverley

Not that United were going to be without a number of key midfielders already, but England youngster Tom Cleverley will most likely be out of Sunday's fixture against Manchester City after picking up a calf injury against CFR Cluj in the Champions League during the week.

According to The Telegraph, Cleverley's injury leaves United with a midfield crisis as he could well be out for a significant period of time.

Manchester United face a midfield crisis heading into Sunday's derby with Premier League champions Manchester City.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be without Anderson, Antonio Valencia and Nani through injury. Tom Cleverley is almost certainly out with the calf injury he sustained during Wednesday’s Champions League defeat to Cluj.

With Shinji Kagawa also still unfit, Ferguson has Phil Jones, Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes to start alongside Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher. It is a far-from-ideal preparation for Manchester United as they seek to avenge the misery inflicted upon them in the league by Manchester City last season.


Potential Starting XI

With all of that team news in mind, let's see if we can put together a starting side for Manchester United to take on Manchester City this weekend.

I've started with David de Gea in goals here, with the Spanish international likely to get the nod ahead of Anders Lindegaard.

De Gea was strong in his return for United against CFR Cluj during the week, and having spent several weeks on the sidelines previously to that match, he will no doubt be healthy and well-rested for United's all-important Manchester derby.

Across the back, expect to see the usual suspects of Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand, but I also think we'll see Phil Jones at right-back here.

Evra, Evans and Ferdinand were all rested against CFR Cluj and will be nice and fresh for this match here—which they'll have to be against the likes of Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero.

But in terms of Jones over Rafael, it's hard not to ignore the added defensive strength that Jones can bring—something the Brazilian cannot bring. Rafael's attacking edge is much better and, with a number of United wingers unavailable, would be better used as a substitute during the second half and allowed to attack further up the pitch, rather than doing that from right-back.

City are too strong to allow them easy space down the right flank, which Jones will be better at cutting out than the young Brazilian international.

With Cleverley out, expect to see Darren Fletcher used in some midfield capacity here—most likely as a defensive midfielder alongside Michael Carrick.

Neither possess the physicality to completely contain the likes of Yaya Toure in midfield, but with Wayne Rooney likely to drop back throughout the match, they will have additional assistance to contain the City star midfielder.

Carrick didn't feature for United against CFR Cluj during the week, and whilst some might question his effectiveness against City's midfield last season, the England international has been playing well this year and deserves his opportunity against the Premier League's top teams.

Plus, United don't have too many other options there, with the addition of Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes both moves that Ferguson will probably not want to start with.

I've got Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young lined up on the left and right wings, respectively, here—positions they have both played well for United already this season.

Young was strong down the left last week against Reading in the Premier League but is more than capable of playing on both sides of the field, and will probably take over Valencia's right wing due to the winger's injury.

Rooney needs to play in behind Robin van Persie at the top of United's attack—meaning that he cannot move out to the left wing—so Welbeck starts out there, with the Englishman showing that he is more than capable of holding his own out there this season.

In fact, according to WhoScored, Welbeck's average match rating on the left wing is higher than both Young and Nani this season.

As mentioned, Rooney will likely start alongside van Persie in the "nine-and-a-half" role that the two have grown accustomed to together. Both players have been in devastating form and will combine to terrorize the City back line all day long in this one.


Agree? Disagree? How should United line up vs. Manchester City?

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