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Manchester City seems to be hitting their stride recently as recent victories against Chelsea and Manchester United put them in a promising position in the EPL and Carabao Cup respectively.
Manchester City played yet another tactical match against the Red Devils as they displayed fluid and dynamic football. Pep Guardiola is known for being a master tactician and beating Manchester United who are currently joint-top at the top of the EPL table show that.
City lined up in a 4-3-3 formation on paper but it looked like a 3-2-2-3 formation in play. The backline had Stones, Dias, Zinchenko, and Cancelo but Cancelo moved inside to the midfield to join Fernandinho in a double pivot. This made the backline spread across to form a back three of Zinchenko, Stones, and Dias giving freedom to De Bruyne and Gundogan to roam around the front three of Foden, Sterling, and Mahrez.
This set up from Guardiola made them very flexible and fluid as they dominated the midfield and created overloads in crucial areas. The flexibility was very evident as they interchanged positions very frequently. Mahrez started on the right flank with Sterling in the middle but Mahrez would sometimes drift inside to leave the space open for De Bruyne to occupy.
The presence of Fernandinho and Cancelo not only allowed Manchester City to play more freely, but it also helped to curb United’s attacking transitions as United are score a lot of goals from rapid attacking transitions. Bruno Fernandes, in particular, was kept quiet for the majority of the match as City had more than enough steel to stop Fernandes from getting balls in dangerous areas.
For all of Manchester City’s flexibility, they were unable to score in the first half but they were eventually rewarded early in the second half when John Stones scored from a set-piece situation. After this goal, Guardiola opted to switch to a 4-1-4-1 mid-block formation which assured defensive solidity and took the heat out of the match.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer brought on Mason Greenwood for Scott McTominay but Guardiola countered by bringing on Rodri for Mahrez as City moved to a 4-3-3 formation. Fernandinho scored the assurance goal and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and his men were outclassed.
This defeat once again highlights how dependent Manchester United are on their attacking transitions and Bruno Fernandes. Solksjaer needs to learn how to come up with a plan B when Fernandes is not at his best.