Adrian Clarke on how the in-form Man Utd star can stretch City in Sunday’s Manchester derby. To suggest that Paul Pogba’s suspension for the Manchester derby on Sunday is a blessing in disguise for Jose Mourinho might be an exaggeration but the Manchester United manager’s strategy should not be adversely affected, says Adrian Clarke.
In a match against a free-flowing Manchester City side, defensive discipline will be of paramount importance so Mourinho may even feel a little more secure with Ander Herrera or Marouane Fellaini alongside Nemanja Matic in the heart of his midfield.
For all his good work against Arsenal last weekend, especially on the counter-attack, Pogba did not track back or fill into his position on a regular basis.
Pogba left much of the defending at Emirates Stadium to Matic and United’s back five, preferring to stand in pockets that he could exploit on turnovers.
Facing a side in Man City who have scored 46 goals already, Mourinho will not want his players wandering away from their positions too often.
Late fitness tests will determine who starts but the heat maps below show how well Fellaini, who also broke forward to score twice, kept his discipline against Crystal Palace on his last Premier League start.
The same can also be said of Herrera who was picked to face Chelsea.
The Fellaini factor
If he’s fit enough to return from injury I would not be surprised if Fellaini was given the task of replacing Pogba, ahead of Herrera.
The Belgian’s physicality alongside Matic can help contain City’s stars.
Like Pogba, Fellaini also brings height to the side, which will be vital when defending corners at the near post as well as attacking set pieces at the other end of the pitch.
Fellaini has scored three times this season, compared with Herrera’s none, and would be dangerous running on to balls put into the City penalty box.
His presence may also have an unsettling effect on the City defence and leave space for a team-mate to profit.