The Manchester Derby was upon us last night and the analysis of the game was all about how Pep Guardiola set up his team to dominate at Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho predictably set up his team to defend and play on counter-attack. Below, we will analyse how Guardiola did some tactical changes initially and also in-game to win the battle of Manchester.
Guardiola fielded his primary 4-3-3 formation initially with the first surprise of starting with Gabriel Jesus. With the experience of Sergio Aguero, many expected the Argentine to start. But, the Manchester City manager thought otherwise and began with the Brazilian striker just because he has more pace. In addition, Jesus can adapt to being a winger if needed in-game further tempted Guardiola to start him.
As we see in the above image, there was a slight change in positions in possession from Manchester City. The game began with United sitting deep, Herrera and Nemanja Matic virtually man-marking David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne. So, to counter this, Guardiola told de Bruyne to go a bit deep which created space for Silva in between the lines. With the Belgian coming a bit deep, there was a confusion between Herrera and Matic as to who will mark him. This in turn vacated space for Silva to run into.
The other good change from the manager was to interchange positions between Jesus and Raheem Sterling. Jesus started as a CF but kept changing positions with Sterling, who began at the right, then to left and finally at centre. This allowed free space for both players as United were never very sure of their original positions. The fluid front-line is always tough to mark and the way Mourinho set up his team, man-marking is a pivotal strategy.
Second Half Change: –
Now, in the second half after scoring two scrappy set-piece goals, City were comfortable with United forced to come out of their shell. This prompted another change from Guardiola which was a master-class. He brought off Jesus and brought on Gundogan in the second half. This enabled Silva to be the false 9 with pace from either wings.
In addition, with Herrera and Matic forced to play a bit higher, it gave space in between the lines to de Bruyne. Silva, by not playing as a striker dropped into midfield to outnumber United in the central region. Fabian Delph, who didn’t had a great game in the left-back was always under-lapping to add to the midfield options in the midfield.
Looking at the positioning of City players in possession is intriguing. They were like diamond in midfield in the first half. Jesus and Sterling interchanging meant that they were close to each other possibly as two number 9s. The manager reverted back to 4-2-3-1 with a false 9 in the second half to give more security and stop the possible counter-attacks.
This is another huge away game where we see Guardiola’s team dominating the opposition. We always say the midfield battle in big games is always important. So, City winning midfield in big games enables them to dominate games and eventually win it. They have so much attacking options along with the midfield solidity making them look like “invincibles.”
United, on the other hand were again lost in midfield. It was a similar situation at Chelsea when they were short-handed in central area getting outnumbered. The loss of Paul Pogba is obviously huge. But, in hindsight, if a huge club like United become so unbalanced with a loss of one player is alarming to see. They should have enough backups to not make his absence be felt. Mourinho got it a bit wrong by playing a 4-2-3-1 formation. Maybe, matching City with 4-3-3 formation would have helped him get more hold in midfield.
In addition to these analytical points, United being very anxious on the ball forced them into rushed passes. The City defence is not that great if put under pressure, and the home side never managed persistent pressure.
So the City bandwagon continues with 11 points gap taken by Guardiola’s men. This was the match which potentially decides the title and the way City play, we never will be able to see them lose 4 games in the league this season. There is an air of invincibility with the way they play. It will take some stopping now, or in this case, unstoppable.