With Monday’s derby looming large, we have examined the 5 key on the field battles which will surely determine the outcome of the 3 points and possibly the Premier League title.
David De Gea Vs. Joe Hart
Not so much of an on field battle as much as a battle of one-upmanship, although the winner of this head to head will surely prove decisive. The two most naturally gifted young goalkeepers in the Premier League will stand either side of the Etihad pitch and have the undesirable duty of denying some of the league’s most prolific goalscorers. De Gea recovered from a testing start to his United clear to produce a string of solid performances, inspired by his wonder save from Juan Mata at Stamford Bridge back in February. Hart has been the model of consistency for City, with 13 clean sheets and 27 goals conceded all season (the least in the league). De Gea will look to bounce back from conceding four last time out against Everton, but will take confidence from his recent performances as he looks to keep out the likes of Tevez and Aguero.
Wayne Rooney Vs. Vincent Kompany
The United number 10 has had one of his most prolific seasons to date, having notched 33 goals in all competitions so far this season. Kompany on the other hand, has been City’s rock at the back, helping the Blues maintain the meanest defence in the league. City have looked tellingly more vulnerable without their captain, as he was absent in defeats to Swansea, and the Carling cup defeat to Liverpool. The battle between these two influential players has a sense of ‘something’s gotta give’ towards it. Rooney is United’s joint leading goalscorer in Manchester Derby’s with 8 goals, a record he shares with Eric Cantona. Will he be able to add to that tally on Monday evening?
Rio Ferdinand Vs. Carlos Tevez
Since his move to the blue side of Manchester, Carlos Tevez has scored on 3 occasions against his old club. He caused Ferdinand some major problems in the two legs of the Carling Cup semi-final in 2010, which led Rio to a change of approach when coming up against his former team-mate. Since then Tevez has been unable to breach the United defence. However, having notched 4 goals in his last 3 games for City since his return and with his developing partnership with fellow countryman, Aguero, Tevez looks more dangerous than ever. It is up to Ferdinand to inspire the likes of Evans and Smalling, with his experience and knowledge, in dealing with this obvious threat.
Paul Scholes Vs. David Silva
The Mercurial Spaniard vs. The Evergreen, Ginger Prince. A battle of two artists of the game. Silva has really set the Premier League alight this season with his stylish play, creating some wonderful goals as well a scoring 6 of his own. Scholes has re-energised United since his retirement u-turn. As well as creating a string of chances, he has steadied the United midfield, bringing the best out of Michael Carrick and ensured an improvement in retaining possession. Silva tore United apart back at Old Trafford in October, creating two goals and scoring another. Paul Scholes was absent that day, still fresh from his retirement at the end of the previous season. Scholes has been here time and time again at the business end of the season. He will hope to bring his experience to the rest of the team and undoubtedly look for the killer pass to unlock a resistant City defence.
Antonio Valencia Vs. Gael Clichy
Clichy has arguably the most unenviable task of the evening, coping with the power and pace of Antonio Valencia. A task that many Premier League defenders have failed to accomplish. Most of United’s most dangerous attacking play comes from the right flank; Clichy must keep his concentration for the entire 90 minutes. Valencia has produced some of his best form in a red shirt since his return from injury. He is not simply restricted to assisting goals, he can also score them. Who can forget his magnificent solo effort at Molineux or his thunderous strike to break the deadlock at Ewood Park. Clichy is also an attacking threat, his defence-splitting pass allowed Aguero to score at Wolves last weekend. This promises to be a mammoth tussle.
By Dan Martin
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