Manchester derby: In Paul Pogba’s absence, Manchester United still plan to halt Pep Guardiola’s winning run

Manchester United host local-rivals City on Sunday looking to end their unbeaten run in the league and bridging the gap at the top.

Written by Shivam Saha | Updated: December 8, 2017 11:52:27 pm
manchester united play manchester city on Sunday The Portuguese manager holds an upper edge and with the title being at stake, Manchester United would be looking to get the most out of it. (Source: Reuters)

Sunday could be a defining day for Manchester City, as Premier League leaders take the short trip to local rivals Manchester United for the season’s first derby. Winning 14 matches out of 15, Manchester City under Pep Guardiola’s guidance looks the heavyweight having graciously mastered the ability to break through the toughest defensive lines and trickiest of away games – such as Huddersfield. Manchester City are currently on a 13-game winning streak in the Premier League, and on Sunday the Blues would be eager to extend the run, equalling Arsenal’s 2003-04 benchmark.

City’s fine display of resilience has already earned them the reputation as title favourites and a win against Manchester United may just prove enough to end the contest.

Following the suspension of star midfielder Paul Pogba from the biggest encounter of the season, the odds remain in favour of the Sky Blues. With Pogba’s absence and a list of players still doubtful to appear on Sunday, Jose Mourinho’s tactics which worked well in their clash against Arsenal now need an alteration, that too, with limited resources. However, there are certain areas where the Portuguese manager holds an upper edge and with the title being at stake, Manchester United would be looking to get the most out of it.

City’s vulnerable backline

Manchester City have looked ruthless while attacking but have plenty to ponder over their defensive woes. The team in their last few matches have looked sloppy at the back leading to errors especially during aerial deliveries from the flanks. Set-pieces, mostly corners have particularly haunted Manchester City as defenders have often fallen short to clear the ball. The mistakes while dealing with the corners in recent games helped Huddersfield and West Ham in netting the ball past summer signing Ederson. Southampton, too, exploited this weakness, when a corner delivered by Ryan Bertrand was rattled against the crossbar by Wesley Hoedt, almost leading to the end of City’s winning streak.

Skipper Vincent Kompany makes his way to the starting line-up but he still remains a non-reliable resource. The Belgian has been prone to injuries and remained on the sidelines for almost two years. City would also John Stones, who has been ruled out for six weeks following a hamstring injury in City’s last month clash against Leicester City.

Paul Pogba’s suspension

Soccer Football – Champions League – Manchester United vs CSKA Moscow – Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain – December 5, 2017 Manchester United’s Paul Pogba REUTERS/Phil Noble

Pogba has been handed a 3-match suspension after being shown a straight red-card in United’s last encounter against Arsenal. The Frenchman was sent-off for his tackle on Hector Bellerin after he landed with his studs pressing entirely on the defender’s calves. Keeping in mind City’s weakness in handling the aerial deliveries and Pogba’s unavailability, it would be interesting to see if Mourinho gives Marouane Fellaini a chance in the starting line-up. The midfielder in current scenario seems the perfect alternative to Pogba and can become very lethal when it comes to dealing with the set pieces and aerial balls, especially in the opponents box.

Goalkeeping heroics

David De Gea inspired a range of memes with his incredible saves against Arsenal. (Source: Reuters)

David de Gea on Sunday registered his name in the Premier League record books by denying Arsenal 14 times. He was top-class in the previous game and may just have to reproduce his heroics in the upcoming derby. With the keeper’s breathtaking abilities to save shots even from short range, the Spanish international has become an asset in the upcoming fixture.

Consistency in scoring

Even after lagging behind the table toppers by eight points, Manchester United have always remained a threat when it comes to attacking. With depth in the attacking options, the team has scored 35 times in the league. By continuously pressing for the ball, United forwards created trouble for Arsenal in the box. A fine understanding among the forwards at United may well expose City of its defensive vulnerability.

Jesse Lingard has been on the scoresheet in the past two games and he would be looking forward to continue his form, whereas Romelu Lukaku would love to reintroduce his name on the list. The attack is further strengthened by the likes of Marcos Rashford, Antony Martial, and Juan Mata.

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