Can Vince & Kompany stop the R&R show?

2013-09-22 14:00

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A tactical battle is in the offing in the blood and thunder tradition of Manchester derbies.

The first Manchester derby of the 2013/14 season is laden with subplots.

At stake is more than just the three-point reward for a victory and derby bragging rights.

By the time Manchester United hosted their “noisy neighbours” on April 8 last term, the title had already been won and lost.

Sergio Aguero’s sublime winner as Manchester City triumphed 2-1 at Old Trafford merely served to slow down United’s title procession by reducing the Red Devils’ lead to 12 points.

There are player reputations to be rehabilitated after the limp manner in which City surrendered their crown to their bitter rivals last season.

For Vincent Kompany and his team-mates, the road to redemption starts in earnest today.

They will relish the opportunity to make amends by striking an early blow against a formidable enemy.

Both teams go into the derby with new managers at the helm and identical records in the league.

Both warmed up for the encounter with good wins in their respective Uefa Champions League group openers.

City exorcised last season’s European demons with a convincing 3-0 victory at Viktoria Plzen, while United gave David Moyes a winning Champions League debut at Bayer Leverkusen’s expense.

Yes, United present a much tougher challenge than Plzen, but after coming a cropper on their domestic travels in their last two league outings, the win in the Czech Republic was a much-needed confidence booster for City.

Recent team selections suggest that either Moyes was misunderstood, or that he has retreated from the preseason assertion attributed to him that Wayne Rooney would be a backup to Robin Van Persie durin this season’s campaign.

The Scotsman is keen for Rooney and Van Persie to forge a formidable partnership that, in his own words, would make opponents sit up and say, “my God”.

So, barring injury or illness, both look set to start in tandem for the third successive match.

At Cardiff City, Manuel Pellegrini’s men were brutally exposed at set pieces.

It is a weakness United will look to profit from, especially with the aerial threat posed by Nemanja Vidic and transfer deadline-day arrival Marouane Fellaini.

United’s 4-2 victory over Leverkusen could not mask the champions’ defensive frailties.

Moyes’ charges could have scored more if it weren’t for uncharacteristic misses by both Rooney and Van Persie, but

they also could have easily conceded more.

Against opponents of City’s calibre, they will have to defend better or suffer the consequences.

But United fans will have been reassured by the sight of the combative Fellaini playing alongside Michael Carrick in central midfield.

Can the pair neutralise Yaya Touré?

The neutrals will want a gung ho contest from the first whistle.

Neither manager is likely to oblige that expectation but will definitely demand performances steeped in the blood and thunder tradition of Manchester derbies.

A tactical battle is in the offing.

Defeat in today’s gladiatorial matchup at the Etihad colosseum will by no means deal the loser’s league aspirations a mortal blow, but it is still a match neither side will want to lose.

City vs United at a glance

»?City have scored four of their 14 Premiership goals from outside the penalty area this season, more than any other side.

»?Since his Premiership debut in August 2006, United’s Ashley Young has won a joint-league-high 12 penalties (level with former team-mate Gabriel Agbonlahor).

»?City have scored in each of their last 52 Premiership home games. The all-time record for the competition is 66, which was set by United last season.

»?Six of the last seven meetings between City and United at Etihad Stadium have seen fewer than two goals scored.

»?Wayne Rooney has now either scored or assisted 40 goals in his last 44 Premiership games.

»?Marouane Fellaini has won five times against City in the Premiership (only against Sunderland – six wins – has he won more often).

»?Since the start of last season, no side has kept more clean sheets in the Premiership than City (21).

»?Six of these clean sheets have come in City’s last eight Premiership games.

»?Robin van Persie has hit more shots off target than any other Premiership player this season (10).

»?Yaya Touré has made 347 passes this season, 30 more

than any other player in the Premiership and 65 more than United’s leading passer,

Michael Carrick (282).

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