Yaya Touré has dominated this fixture for years, but he’s in poor form while Fellaini has done well recently.
The first Manchester derby of the 2014/15 season takes place on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium, with Manchester City playing host to Manchester United. United go into the game on the back of two consecutive draws in the league – a chaotic, enjoyable 2-2 away at West Brom, followed by a tense, tactical 1-1 with Chelsea at Old Trafford last Sunday. For their part, City have hit a poor patch of form, winless in their last three games – including a 2-1 reverse at West Ham in the league last weekend. City did the double over United in the Premier League last season, and they’ll be looking to make it four league wins in a row against their cross-town rivals. United will be attempting to reverse that trend, and a repeat of the performance and result from this fixture in November 2012 would be most welcome. We’re joined by Steven from the View from a Blue blog, and he’s kindly answered our pre-match questions. You can follow Steven on Twitter here.
View from the Opposition
1) What have you made to City’s start of the season and the two defeats to Stoke City and West Ham United?
I should preface all these responses by saying that I’m writing them the morning after City’s pitiful defeat to Newcastle in the Capital One Cup and I’m still on a downer. It was shambolic, as it was in the second half against CSKA Moscow and then away to West Ham. The season so far has had a very stop-start feel. With the pair of international breaks, it has been hard to find any sort of rhythm and results have been disjointed. We have played OK in patches and did well to come from behind to get a point v Chelsea and Arsenal, but we are nowhere near the fluent, enthralling style of football we saw so often last season. Will we improve? Probably. But the worry is that we will fall too far behind Chelsea and they don’t look in the mood to drop too many points.
2) Is Manuel Pellegrini the man to take you forward still?
I’m glad this is typed as opposed to a spoken interview, otherwise there would have been a long period of silence as I ummed and ahhed. The honest answer is I don’t know. Had you asked me before the season started, I’d have said yes. He was exactly the calm influence the club and the players needed after Mancini’s outspoken and provocative spell, and the players responded to his relaxed approach. The summer transfer window, at the time, seemed like a good one for City – strength in depth was added to positions which needed it. Now, however, I’m having doubts about Pellegrini and I don’t think I’m on my own in that regard. Is that a melodramatic reaction to the last few games? Well, perhaps, but there are signs that he makes the same errors time and time again.
Tactically, he is very rigid. If he has two strikers available he’ll play them, and then he’ll have two attacking midfielders, two central midfielders who struggle to protect the defence and two fullbacks who love to bomb forward. The personnel may change (Fernandinho/Fernando, Nasri/Milner, Kolarov/Clichy) but the system invariably stays the same and it’s not working this season. Pellegrini knows far, far more about football than I do, but it seems fairly obvious that in the tough games, he should go with one up front, push David Silva into a central role behind Aguero and include an extra midfielder. But he doesn’t. And I’m not sure whether it’s arrogance (as if he thinks we’re Man City, we’ve got great attacking players so we don’t need to worry about you) or stubbornness or naivety. He showed at Villarreal and Malaga that he was capable of being pragmatic and adapting to the situation. I just wish he’d bring some of that flexibility to City.
3) When he’s on form, Sergio Aguero is one of the best forwards in the world – how many goals will he hit this season and who does he play better with?
I won’t put a number on how many he’ll score, but if he stays fit we’ve got a chance of catching Chelsea. If he suffers another injury-hit season, we’ll be out of the running. I think he works best in a partnership and we saw for the first half of last season how breathtaking the Aguero-Negredo dynamic was, but he has never shown signs of linking up well with Dzeko. That’s more to do with Dzeko, though. He’s just so far behind the rest of our attacking players in terms of touch, awareness, vision, control, workrate etc.. Dzeko is a poor footballer, but a decent goalscorer. Does that make sense? I’d like to see Jovetic get a run in the side, just to see how he operates with Silva and Aguero, but it’s looking more and more of a mistake to allow Negredo to leave, just because his wife was desperately unhappy in Manchester. Obliging of the club, yes, but it could cost us this season.
4) What did you make of your summer signings? Good business, or were more required?
At the time, I thought the deals were good ones. Caballero is a class above Pantilimon, Sagna is a better option than Richards, Fernando likewise for Garcia and Mangala was the centre-back in whom Pellegrini placed his faith. In hindsight, however, I wonder whether we should have tried to add a little more quality. The reality is that, if all players are in form, the first XI (perhaps with the exception of Mangala for Demichelis) is the same as that of last season. City added depth but didn’t kick on. FFP undoubtedly had a role to play in that, it must be said.
5) Can you see any players leaving in January?
Off the top of my head, Nastasic is the only one who might leave in January. Pellegrini doesn’t rate him in the slightest, which is fair enough after he had a poor season last time, but it’s bizarre that Dedryck Boyata is rated ahead of Nastasic. Nastasic isn’t perfect – he tends to get bullied by physical strikers and he has a habit of conceding free-kicks on the edge of the box – but with Demichelis getting on and Mangala yet to settle, I think he should be closer to the first team than he seems to be. Looking slightly ahead to the future, Karim Rekik and Jason Denayer are two very promising centre-backs.
6) What have you made of United this season and any potential nerves about a revival under Louis van Gaal? Was David Moyes treated unfairly?
I think United have probably been a little underwhelming so far. The balance of the squad is obviously terribly lopsided, but with the attacking players you have, I think there should have been more consistency. Injuries haven’t helped, of course, but you look even more defensively vulnerable than City at the moment. And that’s saying something! Van Gaal hasn’t particularly impressed me, but he has the aura and personality that Moyes lacked. By the end of last season, I guess even some non-United fans felt sorry for Moyes. He was just so far away from being the right man for the job. It was very enjoyable season, though, from a City perspective!
7) What have you made of United’s transfers this season?
Di Maria is sensational. I hope you realise how lucky you are to have him. He would be brilliant for City and it’s a shame FFP prevented us from going for him. I don’t have enough praise for Di Maria. As for the others, I know United fans seem to have taken to Blind, but I’m not convinced. He’ll do a decent job for you at the moment, but I don’t think he’s the top quality midfield presence you need when you get back into the Champions League. Rojo may come good in time, especially if he has some experience alongside him. Falcao will score plenty in your system if he can stay fit.
8) If you could take any Red throughout time and put them in a blue shirt, who would it be and why?
I’ve never really thought about this before. I suppose Di Maria would be perfect for City now, Van Nistelrooy at his peak would have knocked them in for fun in this current City team and Stam would have been a good partner for Kompany.
9) What will Manchester City achieve this season?
Second in the Premier League, knocked out of the group stages in the Champions League and FA Cup semi-finalists.
10) What is your all time City XI?
As a relatively young City fan, the current team would surely feature heavily in my all-time XI. So a mixture of best players and ones I particularly liked from when I was growing up (3-5-2 so I can cram in as many attacking midfielders as possible): Hart – Zabaleta, Dunne, Kompany – Wright-Phillips, Berkovic, Benarbia, Elano, Silva – Goater, Aguero.
Surprisingly, United come into this fixture with more confidence than last season’s league champions. Wayne Rooney – the all-time top scorer in Manchester derbies – will almost certainly be in the starting XI, while the encouraging form shown by Marouane Fellaini and Robin van Persie in last week’s draw with Chelsea should see them keep their places. David Silva – who has toyed with United’s backline in every derby he’s played – is a huge miss for City, as he’ll be out for the next few weeks, and City’s congested recent fixture list coupled with low confidence levels could have their fans worried. That said, players like Agüero and Touré can become unstoppable at a second’s notice, and United have been burned enough times in recent years to entertain overconfidence. With a surfeit of firepower and a deficit of defensive organisation apparent in each side, a thrilling fixture surely awaits.