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Ahead of the key Manchester derby at The Etihad, Goal.com looks why a more cautious approach will help Manchester United.

Manchester City and Manchester United will meet for the 164th time in the league when the two sides meet on Sunday in one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures of the season. The two sides go into this game battling for the top spot.

Manchester City have given a good account of themselves in the league derbies last season. The 6-1 win at Old Trafford was Sir Alex's "worst defeat" against Manchester City and the 1-0 win in the corresponding fixture at the Etihad was one of the key fixtures to City's title winning success.

City have assembled a squad of world class players with the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero  and many more. They have without a doubt one of the most strongest squads in the Premier League.


City's assembled squad vs United's old guards

Manchester United on the other hand have built their teams around their key players - Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic and have several young guns like Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones and others who are guided by the old guards - Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. New signing Robin Van Persie has settled in brilliantly after his summer transfer from Arsenal and his valuable goals have been the key to United's performances this season.

However neither Manchester clubs have shown consistent form this season as they enter the New Year period jostling for top spot. City, who go into this game unbeaten in the league, have looked far from convincing as they have struggled to convert draws into wins. United on the other hand have been relying on their attackers for success as their defense and midfield have failed to click.

So should the Reds happily settle for a draw?
So will a more cautious approach help Manchester United?

Manchester United go into this game 3 points clear of their "noisy neighbours" and know if they can avoid defeat they will maintain their top spot. So logically it makes sense for United to go into this game with a more cautious approach.

Injuries to key players has limited Sir Alex's options. He has experimented both the 4-3-3 and the diamond formation in order to incorporate his best XI. This has led to players playing out of position and has affected United's overall gameplay leaving them more exposed at the back. Danny Welbeck has often been deployed on the wings and although his quick feet has helped United going forward, his lack of presence while tracking back has left the full backs exposed. Wayne Rooney has been given a more deeper role since the arrival of Robin Van Persie.

Injuries Expected Return Date
Vidic 15th December
Kagawa 15th December
Anderson No fixed return date
Valencia likely to return this evening
Nani 29th December


Nemanja Vidic the missing link in the defense

Nemanja Vidic's absence has been one of the main reason's United have looked so vulnerable at the back. 15 times in 23 games, United have conceded first and have had to rely on their attackers to deliver. The usual back four of United- Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra have hardly been convincing. Rafael though has improved but the overall defense has looked shaky. What makes it more difficult for this defense will be the presence of pacy Sergio Aguero and possibly Carlos Tevez playing the #10 role which makes it difficult for the defense to decide whether to move up the pitch or stay back and defend. Another major factor at the back has been constant rotation between the two goalkeepers- David De Gea and Andreas Lindegaard. 

Moving upfront United will be missing Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa, Nani, and Anderson while Antonio Valencia might feature in the fixture. Without Anderson, Cleverley and Kagawa United will lack speed going forward and Sir Alex might be tempted to play Rooney alongside Micheal Carrick and Paul Scholes. Although he has the option of playing Darren Fletcher. Although this is not Rooney's natural position but he will add a bit of bite and can dictate play. The key battle for the trio though will be to stop Yaya Toure from going forward which they failed last season when J.S. Park started in the midfield and David Silva's return will make it even more difficult for United to compete with this attacking City side.


The onus will be on Van Persie

With the absence of Nani, Valencia might partner Ashley Young on the wings who had a pretty decent game against Reading but has hardly looked convincing this season and Robin Van Persie playing as the main striker.

The game on Sunday will have a huge effect on the title race and Sir Alex knows if he can avoid defeat his side will have the upper hand going into the key period of the season.


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