How Manchester United and Manchester City Should Line Up in Tuesday's Derby

Daniel TilukFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2014

(FILE PHOTO - EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF TWO IMAGES - Image Numbers (left) 177990986 and 176924376 ) In this composite image a comparison has been made between David Moyes (L) , Manager of Manchester United and Manuel Pellegrini,Manager of Manchester City. Manchester City and Manchester United meet for the first Manchester Derby of the season on September 22, 2013 at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. ***LEFT IMAGE*** MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26: Manchester United Manager David Moyes applauds during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on August 26, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE***  MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19: Manuel Pellegrini the manager of Manchester City shouts instructions during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium on August 19, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Getty Images

Manchester United's Champions League place won't be secured by their position in the Premier League table—as a top-four finish is just out of reach. United's future will be decided by how they fare in this season's UCL competition.

Should United win the trophy, they'll secure a place. If they're knocked out, so are their European hopes for next season.

United's bid for a domestic repeat is all but dead and buried.
United's bid for a domestic repeat is all but dead and buried.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Which leads to the question: When was the last time a Manchester derby was a one-sided affair? 

Answer: Years.

The Red Devils won't be expected to win against Manuel Pellegrini's side, so other than pride, Manchester United have nothing to lose.

Manchester City—on the other hand—have everything to play for. Their three games in hand over league-leaders Chelsea will be reduced to two after Tuesday, so to keep pace with the London side, City need points.

In their 5-0 demolition of Fulham, the Citizens employed a 4-2-3-1 formation. With their captain Vincent Kompany out due to a red-card suspension, Joleon Lescott was brought into the side along Martin Demichelis.

No Kompany, no problem. Weekend goals by Toure (three), Fernandinho and  Demichelis saw three points registered in City's favour.
No Kompany, no problem. Weekend goals by Toure (three), Fernandinho and Demichelis saw three points registered in City's favour.Jan Kruger/Getty Images

The Cottagers going down to 10 men helped City without question, but keeping a clean sheet under any circumstance gives any defence quiet confidence. With their Belgian captain reinstated, you'd expect Pellegrini to continue his centre-back partnership of Kompany and Demichelis against United.

City have enough quality in midfield for two Premier League sides. The double pivot of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho scored four of the Sky Blues five goals last Saturday and should be automatic selections at Old Trafford.

Joy can be found on the wings against United. David Silva and Samir Nasri would be expert selections, combining with their accompanying full-backs and bombarding the United penalty area.

As the Red Devils' centre-back partnerships have been less than serviceable this season, Pellegrini would be well served to play with two strikers up top. Sergio Aguero will not be available for Tuesday's fixture, according to BBC Sport, so the pairing of Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo should be enough to keep United's defenders occupied.

SAS gave United's defence fits. Pellegrini should follow suit with two strikers of his own.
SAS gave United's defence fits. Pellegrini should follow suit with two strikers of his own.Julian Finney/Getty Images

Pellegrini will certainly have watched Liverpool's strike duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge run riot at Old Trafford nearly a fortnight ago and think: "We can do that as well."

For this aim, the 4-2-2-2 formation would suit the Citizens perfectly.

Now to the home side.

United boss David Moyes has been much maligned in recent weeks for (seemingly) not having a plan. Let's try to give him a blueprint.

Firstly, Michael Carrick cannot play as a central defender against Manchester City as he did Saturday at West Ham United.

With Chris Smalling out for a month, per Mirror's Alan Nixon, the weekend-rested Rio Ferdinand should get the start if he's fit; likewise, Patrice Evra should claim his left-back position from Alexander Buttner.

Carrick will need to pull strings from midfield rather than be a potential liability in defence.
Carrick will need to pull strings from midfield rather than be a potential liability in defence.Michael Regan/Getty Images

United should be attack-minded. There's no upside to playing tight, as City have proven they'll eventually break any side down—no matter how big the parked bus; as the old adage says, sometimes "your best defence is offence."

Playing three central midfielders would give Moyes a fighting chance to retain possession or—at the very least—offer his team spells of relief.

Ryan Giggs played expertly in United's 3-0 Champions League comeback over Olympiakos last week, showing his quality by finding willing runners and outlets. Michael Carrick has a similar game and is the best central-midfield option at Moyes' disposal.

As an anchor man, Marouane Fellaini represents the Scots' optimal choice. He's physical, imposing and can find a pass. This is contingent on the Belgian avoiding a ban, as noted by the Express' Matthew Dunn.

Van Persie's absence could give United more attacking options.
Van Persie's absence could give United more attacking options.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Robin van Persie's six-week knee injury, per The Telegraph's Mark Ogden, is a body blow to United, but could be a blessing in disguise.

The Dutchman's exit from the side allows Wayne Rooney to play as a striker and Juan Mata to play in his preferred "No. 10" position. If Moyes wants to give City's suspect centre-back pair issues, he should add Shinji Kagawa to the mix, not on the wing, but in the middle of the park with Mata.

The 4-3-2-1 formation, also known as the "Christmas tree," would fit this goal entirely: Rooney, Mata and Kagawa as United's attacking trident, with Giggs, Carrick and Fellaini providing cover and quality linked play.

If Rooney plays as he's done the past week, he could be a problem all by himself. Give him some help and he's nearly unstoppable.

Should Moyes' squad be a measure leaky, the change to a 4-2-3-1 is simple. With Fellaini and Carrick in the double pivot, Giggs on the left flank and Kagawa on the right.

The game should be an interesting spectacle; tension at Old Trafford will be palpable, as United supporters won't want another hiding on their hands. Nevertheless, the world's richest derby is sure to impress, sure to frustrate and is sure to be an important factor in determining the Premier League crown.

Manchester United vs Manchester City - English Premier League - 25th March 2014 - Football tactics and formations