Manchester United will shock rivals City with surprise lineup

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Football News

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has some of the best attackers in the world at his disposal - but in recent weeks he has been too defensive.

The decision to leave Radamel Falcao on the bench against West Brom with Wayne Rooney suspended was baffling, while against Chelsea he opted for Fellaini and Blind, a physical if technically limited core that could have benefitted from the sharp passing of Ander Herrera or Michael Carrick, both left on the bench for 90 minutes.

The 4-3-3 formation allows van Gaal to incorporate Januzaj, but the young Belgian has not justified his selection. He's talented but too inconsistent at this stage.

The formation also hurts United's best player, Angel Di Maria. The Argentina international has been unplayable when operating on the left hand side of a diamond, roaming infield with creative licence to do as he pleases safe in the knowledge that Luke Shaw will provide the width.

Stuck out on the left wing, it's his job to provide the width. And that's bad news, because it keeps him from influencing the play in central areas around the goal.

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In turn, Juan Mata is also played in his best position, at the head of the diamond with Dutch international Daley Blind at the base and any combination of Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia in between.

That's the case for the 4-1-2-1-2 against Manchester City. That's what they used against Everton, QPR and Leicester, where they were 3-1 up and cruising until a defensive meltdown.

It cannot be coincidental that Di Maria was also the best player on the pitch in all three of these games - providing three of his four assists and all three of his Premier League goals so far. United need a formation that so clearly maximises their £60m talent.

Even with Falcao out injured, Van Gaal must be bold against Manuel Pellegrini's men. He must start Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney and back them up with Mata and Di Maria.

Man City's form

City are on the ropes, Pellegrini publicly admitting that their form is 'worrying'. They have the best overall squad in the Premier League, but United should not be intimidated despite their shellacking at the Etihad Stadium last year.

The defending champions have won just two of their last six games in all competitions, losing at home to Newcastle, away to West Ham and coughing up a 2-0 lead against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League. They're vulnerable defensively, having kept just two clean sheets in their opening nine Premier League games, including one on the opening day.

Sam Allardyce was courageous against them just last weekend, starting Enner Valencia and Sakho up front with Stewart Downing and Morgan Amalfitano - two wingers - in midfield. City were rattled and West Ham were rewarded.

United cannot have wished to play City at a more opportune time. This is a great chance for van Gaal to record his first statement victory. But it will only come if he holds his nerve and plays to United's one true strength - their attack.

Predicted lineup

De Gea, Rafael, Rojo, Smalling, Shaw, Blind, Fellaini, Di Maria, Mata, Van Persie, Rooney

Manchester United
Manchester City
Premier League

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