Needless to say, it’s not this simple. There are no easy five-step plans in football. That’s why we love it.
1. Use the flanks- United’s strongest position is, arguably, City’s weakest. In Ashley Young, Luis Nani and Antonio Valencia, United have three top-class wingers, players capable of producing match-winning performances. Manchester City are stuck with the occasionally brilliant, but mostly mediocre Adam Johnson, who has spent most of the season on Mancini’s naughty list. Johnson’s inevitable absence should play into United’s hands. Rafael and Evra both looked exposed against Everton, so they could do with an easy evening.
2. Don’t think about precedent- Neither of this season’s Manchester derbies deserves detailed analysis. Both matches were crazy affairs packed with incident but bereft of proper, controlled football. The last time a City-United game yielded fewer than five goals, people were still calling David Silva” lightweight” and “brittle”.
3. Welcome to Manchester- Here’s a challenge: Think of the ugliest, greediest, most odious creature in the world. Condense your creation into a single strand of hair. You have just created a Carlos Tevez eyelash.
United, apparently, are big on golfing trips. Tevez must have appreciated that aspect of Old Trafford life.
Deep down, we all know that Dimitar Berbatov, the player whose arrival ensured Tevez’s exit, is nowhere near as effective as the man he replaced. But he’s certainly a superior human being. Which, of course, isn’t saying much.
Okay, enough with the cheap cracks. Like it or not, neutralizing Tevez would represent a huge step towards victory at the Etihad. Unfortunately, Tevez is back from holiday and back in form. He has netted four in his last three. And he always, always scores against United.
4. Midfield concentration- There’s something particularly unpleasant about the prospect of Michael Carrick lining up against Yaya Toure. I had succeeded in wiping last year’s FA Cup semi-final from my memory until last week, when Fellaini’s dominance brought those Wembley horrors flooding back. The Carrick give-away, the Toure charge and United’s ultimate defeat have become more and more vivid as the week has progressed. If Carrick plays with the same complacency that characterized his performance against Everton, then United could be in for a rough evening.
5. If Chelsea can do it, then so can we- City need to win to have any realistic chance of claiming the title; with just two games remaining after Monday’s encounter, a draw simply wouldn’t be enough. Which leaves Ferguson with a difficult decision to make, one that managers grapple with every week: stick or twist? Maybe I’m not a true United fan, or maybe I just paid too much attention to Tuesday’s Champions League action, but I would love to see Fergie pack the midfield and grind out a 0-0 draw. With Aguero firing and Silva rejuvenated, United will have no choice but to defend.