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article imageFellaini and Young direct United to derby supremacy over City

By Tyrrell Meertins     Apr 12, 2015 in Sports
In terms of form, the contrast between both Manchester clubs heading into the second derby of the season was astonishing, but Louis van Gaal’s side showcased their superiority in a simplistic manner at Old Trafford.
Manuel Pellegrini strayed away from his preferred 4-4-2 and opted for a 4-2-3-1 – a system he’s reverted to in high-profile European matches – with Sergio Aguero spearheading City’s attack, while James Milner replaced Edin Dzeko in the starting XI.
Despite City’s sudden decline, and the lack of cohesion throughout the side, Milner and David Silva have developed a reliable partnership in big matches in recent years, further legitimizing his inclusion. Silva and Milner were the key men in City’s initial onslaught, and their positioning in the final third was equally interesting.
Milner surprisingly adopted a central role behind Aguero in the opening minutes, pressing and closing down a passing lane to Michael Carrick, while Silva drifted to the left to press Antonio Valencia. In reality, Silva and Milner flustered United’s back-line with their constant interchanging, and both men were involved in wonderful buildup play – the latter’s clever reverse ball to the former in half space – for Aguero’s opener.
Likewise, United’s defence was unconvincing, with Daley Blind initially struggling to cope with Jesus Navas’ pace, thus leading to the left-back dropping a few yards away from the Spaniard. Frankly, the occasional City moves stemmed from basic balls over the top or behind United’s defence to Aguero, thus forcing David De Gea to spring off forward to clear danger, while poor decision-making also prevented the away side from scoring.
Oddly, the ease in United’s route to lengthy spells of dominance was equally straightforward, and consisted of a few key phases. Initially it appeared Ashley Young was the main source of attack, with the aim of taking on City’s full backs. Young was fouled in the right channel following a break ignited by Ander Herrera, and he subsequently stormed across Clichy to meet the Spaniard’s cross for United’s opener.
In central areas, Carrick struggled to evade Milner’s presence, and the midfield battle consisted of Toure against Marouane Fellaini, whereas Fernandinho tracked Ander Herrera. The home side easily bypassed City’s pressing with Herrera dropping deep away from Fernandinho, and Mata gliding infield into pockets of space to receive the ball. Neither Fernandinho nor Gael Clichy followed the Spaniards – the Brazilian was responsible for protecting the back four, whereas the latter feared Antonio Valencia would storm past Silva to pose a threat from the right – and the duo’s movement into vacant space was pivotal in the build up to United’s second goal.
Fellaini, though, played a decisive role in United’s first half dominance, as he freely moved laterally to either side of Toure – specifically the left flank – to receive the ball. Toure’s positional discipline has been rightly criticized in recent months, and the Ivorian's inability to stifle Fellaini further exploited his defensive deficiencies.
On the other hand, when United aimed to go direct, Fellaini drifted to the far post to utilize his physical and aerial superiority over diminutive full backs, Pablo Zabaleta and Clichy. This was perfectly illustrated when the Belgian towered over Clichy to put United ahead in the first half, and he continuously perturbed City’s backline, including Toure, in the box with both his height advantage.
“He [Ashley Young] was fantastic," Van Gaal said. “He was our best player.”
“When you have a big contribution you can play in a team and Ashley has done that. He has always played with me. Fellaini also because he was injured a lot of times but from day one he is the player who is always doing what I asked. “
United weren’t entirely convincing in the opening half, but City were lacklustre out of possession, whilst losing key individual battles across the pitch. Eliaquim Mangala replaced Vincent Kompany half time, but Pellegrini was reluctant to alter City’s approach, as Aguero, Milner and Navas' pace troubled United's back-line.
"United played very well after the first 20 minutes in which we played very well. We scored a goal and had two or three more clear chances to score but we didn't and they started growing,” Pellegrini said.
"We didn't continue playing the way we started the first 20 minutes and we lost the marks, we couldn't continue playing against a very tough Manchester United.”
Still, the pattern in the second half remained the same. Fellaini dispossessed Martin Demichelis in the buildup to Mata’s goal, whereas Chris Smalling rose high to meet Young’s free kick and further increase United’s lead. Pellegrini’s surprise usage of Milner was responsible for City's brief dominance, but the away side couldn’t cope with United’s direct play involving Fellaini and Young.
More about Manchester city, Manchester United, Marouane Fellaini, James milner, MANCHESTER DERBY
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