Manchester United 2:1 Manchester City : Tactical Analysis

Erik ten Hag has avenged his side’s 6-3 defeat in the Manchester derby on October with a remarkable 2-1 victory against Manchester City.

The Manchester United boss tactically outclassed his former mentor Pep Guardiola, under whom he had worked during his Bayern Munich days.

Manchester City started the match with predominant possession, as usual.

The Citizens ended the match with more than 72% possession, but Manchester United’s tactical shape limited City’s opportunity to dictate the game.

Pep Guardiola started with a usual 4-3-3. But he chose to use both of his fullbacks aggressively rather than using one of them as an inverted fullback.

Guardiola chose to do so as Manchester United’s wide attackers are comfortable leaving the wide areas. They are more interested in covering the half-spaces inverted fullbacks take on. So, the City boss decided to make use of the space on the flanks.

But Manchester United’s narrow attacking shape made it difficult for City centre-backs Manuel Akanji and Nathan Aké to play the ball through the middle. This suffocated the City midfield, and for this reason, we did not see City midfield threatening Man United significantly in the first half.

Both Kyle Walker and João Cancelo had acres of space in front of them, but the centre-backs failed to distribute the ball effectively into these channels. With the midfielders successfully marked out of the game, City were struggling to create.

To address this issue, Pep brought Bernardo Silva to the backline and formed a back three.

This made the City defence more press resistant, and Silva’s superior technical quality made it easier to progress the ball in wider areas. Casemiro dropped deep to track Bernardo Silva, so a big gap opened up in the United midfield. All of a sudden, Manchester City felt more relaxed in moving the ball.

With Walker running at United left-back Tyrell Malacia, City were creating 3v2 situations in the left flank, and that’s how they scored their only goal of the match.

Malacia and Fred covered Riyad Mahrez and Walker, creating space for Kevin de Bruyne to infiltrate the United box and extend an inviting ball towards Jack Grealish, who made no mistake in putting it away.

When Kyle Walker plays as an inverted right-back, it gives more defensive cover to City during transitions. The England international’s incredible pace allows him to cover a large patch of area and keep opposition attackers at bay. But by forcing him wide, City were left with only three defenders in the backline.

Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes continuously stayed close to the right side of the City defence during attacking transitions.

They provided passing lanes to each other and forced the City centre-backs to draw closer. This opened up a big space on the left side.

In the first goal, United took advantage of City’s lack of numbers in defence.

For the second goal, Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho raided the space that opened up in the left side of the City defence. Rashford fired in the decisive goal and dealt a severe blow to Man City’s title aspirations.


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