Manchester derbies are the type of games that require someone to step up and seize proceedings and, over the years, this fixture has blessed us with scenes that will be talked about forever.
In the past, an 18-year-old Marcus Rashford has been that player – scoring on just his eighth start for Manchester United to win in 2016; Mario Balotelli prompted both outrage and applause for Manchester City with his infamous ‘Why Always Me’ celebration as he opened the scoring in 2011; Wayne Rooney scored that bicycle kick eight months earlier… the list goes on and on.
These sparkling moments of individual inspiration are what have characterised these clashes over the years but, as the tide decisively begins to shift between the two Manchester factions, it was a team-effort that wrote the headlines.
Pep Guardiola’s City machine is made up of many interchangeable cogs that, such is the fluidity and precision of their football, can be deployed just about anywhere on the pitch without looking out of place – it is this which allowed the Cityzens to thread a 44-pass move together to kill off the Red Devils in the last ten minutes of the game on Sunday.
It’s a tall order to pick a standout in a side that both operates so effectively as a unit and boasts so much individual talent, but Bernardo Silva has more than capably filled the boots of the injured Kevin De Bruyne and has arguably been the Sky Blues’ most consistent performer this campaign as they (somehow) continue to build on the record-breaking form of last season.
The former Monaco man has been shifted inside to complete a midfield three and, since, you could be forgiven for forgetting that there is a certain ginger magician who fills that spot usually.
While quickly forming an impressive partnership with David Silva, the 24-year-old is providing a defensive security which his Spanish namesake does not, completing 1.3 tackles per game and 0.9 clearances to the 32-year-old’s 0.8 and 0.3, respectively (WhoScored).
As Guardiola’s system allows the two midfielders ahead of his regista to roam freely, the £54m man has the license to wander into advanced areas and his excellent positioning and vision have allowed him to chalk up three goals and three assists in the league so far.
This excellent output at both ends of the pitch makes him as close to expendable as is possible with the wealth of stars vying for starting spots so expect Leroy Sane to suffer when De Bruyne returns to the fore.
The German has seen his minutes reduced due to the arrival of Riyad Mahrez and the mind-boggling logistics behind Pep’s reluctance to start him with full-back Benjamin Mendy; as both are left-footed, the concern is that their respective movements and runs will be be too similar and that they will only get in each-other’s way as they attempt to unpick their opposition.
Raheem Sterling has benefitted greatly from being swapped over to the left as he now has the option to cut inside onto his favoured right foot, as is the objective for the left-footed Mahrez, who has taken up Sterling’s role on the right.
With De Bruyne expected to be fully match fit for the trip to Chelsea on 8th December, he will likely slot back into the midfield three and push Bernardo Silva further afield to his natural right-winger slot.
Pep seemingly doesn’t rate Sane on the right as he does Mahrez, so the PFA Young Player of the Year may slip further down the pecking order if the relationship between he and Mendy cannot be worked around – the pair have played together only twice all season.
It would be a great shame to see the 22-year-old starved of minutes for such a technical reason that is far out of his control, but there seems to be no other conclusion come the Christmas period if Silva keeps up this form.
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