Friday, October 21, 2011

The Mancunian Candidate

For the blue half of Manchester, this Saturday presents the ultimate opportunity to steal a march finally on their historically dominant neighbours, victory at Old Trafford would signal that the title challenge from City is very real.

Looking at the relative squads, there is little to choose in terms of size and quality with both boasting a huge amount of options, especially in attack. The conundrum for Mancini as ever in tough away games is how he sets his side up. It is interesting to note that City did not win away against any of the top seven last year, they were also well beaten recently in Munchen, it will be hard for the Italian to break free of his naturally defensive shackles given that record but to beat ManYoo, that is what he must do.

Although Chelsea were beaten at Old Trafford, they showed that ManYoo have a soft centre and as was widely reported, the scoreline could have been anything that day. Ferguson chose an odd and understrength team against Liverpool - possibly to let Dalglish and the rest of Anfield know that he doesn't particularly see them as a threat - but it is for sure that he sees City as real rivals for silverware this season.

For that reason we can expect the big guns from the red half of Manchester on show this weekend. City do not have the players defensively to sit back against that kind of onslaught and so they must attempt to have the bulk of the play and the possession.

Neither side looks particularly convincing defensively and both have fairly workmanlike central midfields, it is the potent attacking options of both sides that will decide the match.

Should Mancini go with what has been successful this season, it will be four from Nasri, Silva, Aguero, Balotelli and Dzeko with Johnson only having an outside squeak of a start. Should only three of these start then we will know that Mancini has gone with a defensive mindset.

Ferguson's choices are less clear depending on which formation he goes with but in Young, Rooney, Nani, Hernandez and the seemingly ageless Giggs he has forward players of real flair whilst retaining the slightly more workmanlike options of Park and Valencia. It will be hard for Mancini to second guess what team and shape that Ferguson will go with.

For all City's Championship pretensions, Sunday represents the acid test and in truth it is hard to see them winning at Old Trafford. A draw would be an excellent result for them whilst for Ferguson, this is an opportunity to fire a well aimed broadside at the upstarts from Eastlands. We expect a fiery affair which should be edged (just) by the home team - No Nonsense.