With Paul Pogba suspended for Sunday’s derby, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher look at how Manchester United could approach the game against rivals Manchester City without the influential midfielder.
United’s 3-1 victory at Arsenal on Saturday was bittersweet after Paul Pogba saw red for a challenge on Hector Bellerin.
The three-match ban means the France international will miss Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford as United look to cut City’s eight-point gap at the top of the Premier League.
Man Utd vs Man City
December 10, 2017, 4:15pm
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Speaking in his latest podcast, Neville admits the absence of Pogba will affect United when they look to counter-attack City, pointing towards October’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool as an occasion when they struggled without the 24-year-old.
“I was excited by what I was watching in the first 20 minutes against Arsenal, the counter-attacking was fantastic. (Jesse) Lingard, (Anthony) Martial and (Romelu) Lukaku were brilliant, and you could see a little bit how (Nicolas) Otamendi or (Vincent) Kompany could get caught. You could see how that tactic could work in the Manchester derby,” Neville said.
“Pogba makes a big, big difference. So when they went to Anfield, they couldn’t connect the deep defence to the midfield and into attack. He connects that, he links it, with those runs forward and his composure on the ball.
Arsenal 1-3 Man Utd
“It was a cloud over a very good day for United because he is such an important player in the connection between the front and the back.
“The composure he shows travelling with the ball, you see West Ham when they were deep with 20 minutes to go, they didn’t have anybody that could travel with the ball, past (Kevin) De Bruyne and (David) Silva.
“You think about Pogba, he would beat De Bruyne and Silva with the ball at his feet and break that line. Once you break that line you’re onto the weakness, you’re onto those two centre-backs with Lukaku and Martial.
“City is a big game to not have Pogba. The person who can break the line is gone, but Jose Mourinho will be looking at how he can do it differently.
“I was trying to think myself what Jose will be thinking. Do you play split strikers with Martial and Lukaku? City bring their full-backs in narrow while two centre-backs push up the pitch, [so United could] just leave two strikers stretched wide and you play three central midfielders and five at the back, and say to City that’s what we’ll do, trust that the front two will get into those areas.”
Paul Pogba saw red for a challenge on Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin during Manchester United’s win at the Emirates Stadium
Meanwhile, speaking in the Super Sunday studio, Carragher said Pogba will be a “big miss” for United.
Tactically, the Sky Sports pundit suggested Sunday’s hosts could look to turn the derby into an “old-fashioned” affair, playing with an increased aggressiveness to make it difficult for City.
“I’m disappointed he’s not playing on Sunday because I would have loved to have seen how Jose would have used him, considering what he would have been up against in De Bruyne and Silva,” Carragher said.
“Jose always sets up for the opposition, so he would be well aware of Silva and De Bruyne, and how he will have to stop them, so it’s a big miss.
“There’s no doubt City will have the most possession, but that doesn’t matter. I think United have to play the way they used to against Henry’s Arsenal, when they were that good at keeping the ball.
Manchester City 2-1 West Ham
“It may have to be a little old-fashioned, but to be very aggressive, using set-pieces and at times going direct and on the counter-attack, but overall, be very, very aggressive.
“Make it an old-fashioned derby. Yes, you can’t go round kicking people, but make it as difficult as possible for City, and make them feel that contact right throughout the game.”