What can Ten Hag do to stop the City Juggernaut?
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What can Ten Hag do to stop the City Juggernaut?

23/05/24 08:31

This Saturday will see a repeat of last years FA Cup Final where Ilkay Gundogan scored both goals for Man City, either side of a Bruno Fernandes penalty, to secure the trophy for Manchester City, their seventh FA Cup title and the 2nd part of what would go on to be a historic treble for the Citizens. In the league this year, Man City completed a comfortable double over their rivals winning 3-0 at Old Trafford in October before a Foden masterclass dismantled the Reds at The Etihad in March. So just how do Manchester United and Erik Ten Hag try to stop the juggernaut that is Pep’s blues.

Defence

Man Utd will be bolstered by the return of Lisandro Martinez who has been steadily progressing back from his calf strain and played 60 minutes in their game against Brighton last weekend. Who he plays alongside is in doubt due to injuries. The most likely option is Jonny Evans who has performed well since re-signing for the club on a free transfer earlier in the season. With such a big game on the line, Erik Ten Hag may risk playing Raphael Varane, who like Martinez, is returning from injury and came on for the final 20 minutes against Brighton. Casemiro may even continue to occupy the CB position, however he looked a lot more secure when returning to his natural Midfield position once Varane and Evans were substituted on against Brighton. Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will occupy the full-back positions.

Whoever Ten Hag picks will need to be switched on for the full 90 minutes. Manchester City amongst other teams have exploited defensive frailness in Man Utd at the back post with their Defenders losing their men and falling asleep to movement. The other noticeable defensive frailty is the area around the penalty spot where they fail to pick up on cut-backs and late runs into the box. Communication and awareness is going to be crucial to stop the likes of Foden and De Bruyne from getting onto the end of such cutbacks.

Midfield

Midfield is the area that will cause Erik Ten Hag the most difficulty due to players being out of form and trying to be both solid but also have attacking capabilities. The most likely Midfield 3 will be Kobbie Mainoo, Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes however do not be surprised if Sofyan Amrabat or Scott McTominay make an appearance – Amrabat was substituted after 70 minutes against Brighton perhaps with one-eye on Saturdays game. In recent games, Fernandes and McTominay have occupied a false 9 position in order to give Rasmus Hojlund a break – however could Ten Hag have been working on this tactic with the Cup Final in mind? This would certainly give them a lot more stability in midfield and they may look to flood the midfield, especially as Amad Diallo also likes to drift back into the middle of midfield when defending.

It will be crucial to stop the supply to Haaland but this is easier said than done. If I was Ten Hag, I would be tempted to play Amrabat to man-mark Kevin De Bruyne. Stopping De Bruyne and Foden will help solve a lot of the issues that Man City pose. The issue for Man Utd is that they will still have Doku, Bernardo Silva, Rodri to defend against as well as Gvardiol who has an eye for goal recently.

Attack

Will Erik Ten Hag revert to his usual suspects after giving Hojlund a well deserved break? One man who is almost certainly guaranteed a start is Garnacho who has started 37 consecutive games for the club. In my opinion, he has looked tired in recent weeks and I would have liked to have seen him have a break in the build up to the game so that he can regain some freshness. On the right, it is likely Amad Diallo will continue his impressive form in the last few games. If Man Utd are going to challenge at all, the wingers need to make sure they keep hold of the ball and give their Defenders some time to rest as it will no doubt be a game where City dominate the ball.

Manchester United have the capabilities of upsetting the odds but with City at odds of 2/7 (skybet), it looks like a foregone conclusion. Recent reports also suggest that similar to Louis Van Gaal, the FA Cup Final will be the last game in charge for the Man United manager, especially after Mauricio Pochettino left Chelsea on Wednesday, a man that the INEOS Group like. Can Ten Hag rescue the season for Manchester United or will Pep pour more misery?

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