Manchester City vs Manchester United: Tactical Analysis – Pep Guardiola’s Tactical Masterclass

Manchester City vs Manchester United: Tactical Analysis – Pep Guardiola’s Tactical Masterclass

  • Tactics
  • October 3, 2022
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The first Manchester derby of the 2022/23 season transpired at the Etihad Stadium as the noisy neighbours battered the Red Devils in front of a packed audience which included Sir Alex Ferguson, as he witnessed the disastrous performance by his former club.

After quite an imposing start, City took the lead in the 8th minute through Phil Foden. The man in form, Erling Haaland, scored two goals in three minutes, both assisted by the Belgian sensation Kevin De Bruyne. Foden scored his second right before the break as the game was over for United already.

Five more goals were scored in the second half, and it was United who scored the majority of those. Antony made it 4-1 with a fantastic goal with his gifted left foot before City went on to score a couple more as Haaland and Foden completed their hattricks. Antony Martial scored a brace, but it was never going to trouble City.

Also read: Erling Haaland Goals Projection – How Many Goals Can Haaland Score This Season?

How Did Manchester City Attack Manchester United?

There was a clear dominance that City possessed all over the pitch in possession. However, while entering the midfield third and attacking third, the majority of their chances were being created down the left side.

Between United’s two full-backs, Dalot and Malacia, the Portuguese defender is weaker defensively. Also, Cancelo is one of the most creative players in the league at wing-back, and he worked his way on that wing as well.

Manchester City creating numerical overloads on the left wing.

As you can see in the above picture, the wide triangle that City often deploy in their attacks was evidently not focused on by Ten Hag. Involving Cancelo, Grealish, and Bernardo Silva, City created 3v2 situations on the left wing time and time again. Dalot struggled big time, while McTominay also found it difficult to support his right back.

Interestingly, if City were unable to get in behind Dalot, which they did quite easily throughout the game, Haaland got involved as well and made some confusing third-man runs to distract United’s defensive shape.

How Did Manchester City Break United’s Lines Easily?

Due to Haaland’s decisiveness in front of goal this season and the way City are blowing teams away, people aren’t aware of Pep’s excellent tactics for specific games. In this game, City comfortably broke United’s shape vertically. With Haaland, they don’t play with a false nine anymore, so how do City’s midfielders manage to create the space in between the lines?

As explained earlier, McTominay had to push out wider to help Dalot defensively. Whenever one midfielder shifts, his partner has to shift with him, which is a basic rule while playing in a double pivot.

De Bruyne’s positioning forces Ericksen to stay with him and not move towards McTominay.

As you must have observed while watching the game, Eriksen had a poor game. The Danish international was the target for Kevin De Bruyne, and this is where Pep’s tactical intelligence comes in. As Bernardo Silva pushed wider and created the triangle on the left wing, McTominay had to go with him.

However, Eriksen couldn’t move to cover his Scottish teammate and that resulted in De Bruyne picking up confusing positions. De Bruyne was in the right inside channel most of the time with Foden out wide.

As a result, Eriksen had to stay near the Belgian to cancel him as a passing option, but that was leaving a ridiculous amount of space in the central pocket. That space was either occupied by Haaland, dropping deeper at times, or Gundogan, who pushed higher when required. Also, De Bruyne was relatively free when City hit United in transitions.

Overall, despite the brilliance of Haaland and Foden in the derby, Pep’s tactical plan was as significant as City’s star players’ performances on the pitch.

The Spanish tactician studied and identified United’s weakness and devised a remarkable plan executed excellently by his players.

6-3 is quite an emphatic result for a Manchester derby, which you would think would be a tight affair; City have categorically changed the way they play with the addition of Haaland in attack, and opponent defences seem to have no answer to City’s forward play with the lethal Norweigian leading the line for the Citizens.

Eric Ten Hag Said Man United “Lacked Belief”

During his post-match interview, United boss Erik Ten Hag said, “We had a lack of belief. I’m surprised why we didn’t bring it on the pitch.”

“It was four weeks ago, but I had seen a different team with a different spirit and a different vibe. Today, we weren’t convincing. From the first minute, we were not on the front foot and we were not brave in possession.”

“It’s always difficult to find out why that is, especially straight after the game. I will have to talk to my players and find out.”

“They know they can do better. You saw the performances against Arsenal and Liverpool but if you don’t fight – which we didn’t – then you have a problem against a team like Manchester City.”

“Once again, it was a lack of belief.”

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