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Talking Tactics

Man Utd duo can break away to inspire derby win

Adrian Clarke 10 Dec 2020

Adrian Clarke says Rashford and Fernandes can lead team to another victory over Man City

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 12.

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Manchester United must refocus ahead of their derby match against Manchester City, having looked defensively shaky in their last four outings.

They have conceded nine goals from a total of 51 shots against Southampton, Paris Saint-Germain, West Ham United and RB Leipzig. 

If they do not improve their defensive structure, Man City can inflict extra misery following their local rivals' midweek exit from the UEFA Champions League.

Start well

The first half at Old Trafford will be of paramount importance for Man Utd, who have been starting matches slowly.

No Premier League side have conceded more than their 11 first-half goals, and they are facing opponents who like to begin matches at a very high tempo.

Man City have scored nine times in the opening half-hour of their matches, second only to Tottenham Hotspur's 10 in the Premier League.

I would expect the hosts to be cautious initially, just as they were in October's goalless draw at home against Chelsea.

First-half goals comparison
  Man Utd Man City
Goals scored 5 12
Goals against 11 4

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side did the double over their neighbours last season, playing efficient counter-attacking football.

They had only 27.7 per cent of the possession in March's 2-0 home win, using a 3-4-1-2 formation.

Earlier on in the campaign, they had 28.1 per cent of the ball in a 2-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium, while using a more familiar 4-2-3-1 system.

It would be surprising if they move away from the methods that worked so well for them in those matches.

Man Utd's goal threat will largely come from explosive counter-attacks or turnovers, with Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford their main men.

Man Utd's top threats 2020/21*
Chances created Open-play
chances created
Passes ending
in final third
Fernandes 35 Fernandes 28 Fernandes 281 Fernandes 21
Rashford 17 Rashford 16 Rashford 161 Rashford 17
Mata/McTominay 8 McTominay 8 Shaw 142 Greenwood 11

*Rotate mobile device to see table in full

The pair came off the bench at half-time last weekend to inspire a remarkable turnaround at West Ham, helping to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 win.

Fernandes has made more chances from open play than any other Premier League player this term, with 28.

Eight of those came in his 45-minute appearance at London Stadium. 

Fernandes and Rashford's MW11 impact

Rashford has the pace and skill to hurt a Man City side who can leave spaces in behind their backline.

Both players are perfectly suited to the way Man Utd like to play going forward.

The key question is whether their defence will be solid enough to allow their attackers to shine.

Also in this series

Part 1: Bowen's runs in behind can catch out Leeds
Part 3: Palace pair can inspire upset against Spurs

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