Manchester United face off against Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday in a crucial Premier League game. For all of United’s troubles this season, they can be level on points with Manchester City if they win the Manchester derby. Looking at the form guide and the way the teams are playing, it’s easy to write off Manchester United. But United under Solskjaer have had a surprising amount of success against Guardiola’s City. United have not lost their last 4 Premier League encounters against City, winning three of them and conceding only once. So what can Solskjaer do to keep up this excellent record against City?
Play with a back three/five
United have had a poor defensive record so far this season and their only clean sheet in recent times was against Spurs when Solskjaer opted to play with a back three. Although, Varane is out with an injury and Lindelof is doubtful for the game, Solskjaer should still play with a back three either by playing Luke Shaw or Wan-Bissaka as center backs. Against City who do not have a tall center forward, both of United’s full backs should be comfortable to play as a center back.
Defend in a low block
Against City who will dominate possession, United should defend in a compact and low block with two banks of 3 and 5. This will force City to go wide from where they will struggle to create threatening opportunities as they do not have a target man in the box to cross the ball.
Deep Role for Fernandes
We predict that Solskjaer would opt for a 3-4-1-2 formation which would see Fernandes play behind Cavani and Ronaldo. But without the ball, this should transform into a 5-3-1-1 formation with Bruno Fernandes dropping deep and playing alongside Fred and McTominay to ensure that United do not get overrun in the central areas. Against Liverpool, United had no control in the middle of the field as Liverpool had 4 players against United’s two. For this not to repeat against City, it is important that Fernandes drops deep.
Employing all of the above 3 strategies would ensure that United defend deep and compact without the ball. But when they win the ball, they will have Cavani and Ronaldo making runs behind City’s high line which will ensure that United can create good goal scoring opportunities.