Atalanta’s Bruno Fernandes trick shows Man City how to lower Manchester United on derby day – Alex Brotherton

Had you asked a Manchester City fan 10 days ago how they felt about the upcoming Manchester derby, it’s likely they would have been extremely confident.

City had just followed up on a Champions League Champions League in Bruges with a brilliant 4-1 win over Brighton, while Manchester United were in disarray after an embarrassing 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.

But things change very quickly in football. Since then, City have played two games without scoring, one has knocked them out of the Carabao Cup and the other damaged their Premier League title bid.

At Old Trafford, under-shooting boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær changed his team’s set-up and consequently beat Tottenham 3-0, before saving a late point away to Atalanta.

As City have struggled to create chances against defensive sides this season, the 3-4-2-1 formation that United now prefer could give them trouble in the 186th Manchester derby on Saturday.

Fortunately for Pep Guardiola and City, Italian Atalanta showed in an exciting 2-2 draw on Tuesday how United can be suffocated.

United lined up with three at the back, though Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw as they defended their wing-backs fell to form a fiver. With Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes playing behind striker Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay were left as the two central midfielders to perform defensive tasks.

Rio Ferdinand issued a defensive warning to Manchester United ahead of Manchester City on Saturday.
Josip Illicic showed City’s offensive midfielders how they can hurt United on Saturday

None of them are known for their defensive work, as shown by Atalanta’s opening time in the 12th minute. Striker Duvan Zapata took advantage of a random deflection and ran towards Wan-Bissaka and Eric Bailly, Atalanta striker Josip Ilicic drifting from the right wing into a sea of ​​space in front of United’s back three.

Pogba and McTominay arrived late on the scene, powerless to prevent Ilicic from curling Zapata’s post into goal, via a suspicious piece of goalkeeping from David de Gea.

If United line up in a similar way on Saturday, then people like Ilkay Gundogan or Kevin De Bruyne could find some joy in making late runs to the edge of the penalty area – something Gundogan has shown a special suitability for.

At various times throughout the 2-2 draw, Atalanta’s pressure caused several problems for United. They can rely on Ronaldo goals at the last minute, anything they want, but pressure this United team and they will make mistakes.

Duvan Zapata runs away from Harry Maguire to score Atalanta’s second goal

About half an hour later, with the score still 1-0 to the hosts, Paul Pogba began to dribble from the sideline towards his own penalty area, looking for a way out; he did not find it.

Teun Koopmeiners and Ilicic fussed and teased the Frenchman until he tried to force a pass, which Koopmeiners deflected onto teammate Zapata’s road deep inside the United field. The striker should have actually scored, but a heroic Bailly block saved Pogba’s blush.

Zapata had proved to be such a great player all night long and instead of taking responsibility for handling one of his powerful runs forward in the 56th minute, Bailly and Harry Maguire were given an offside trap that allowed him to score.

If City put continuous pressure on United’s battered back line both with and without the ball, then they will eventually find holes.

Ronaldo may be the one catching the headlines, but in reality it is Bruno Fernandes who is at the heart of all the good they do.

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For most of Fernandes’ 87 minutes on the field, Atalanta kept him quiet through a combination of man-marking and blocking of passing lanes, but in the second they did not, he created problems.

United’s first goal, a fine team move completed by Ronaldo in the first half’s break-in, came from Atalanta’s inability to track Fernandes’ run into the box. When center-back Merih Demiral realized he needed to track down his man, Fernandes had joked in the space the defender had released and sent the ball back to Ronaldo to score.

Of course, Guardiola’s City is a very different team than Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta, with different tactics, systems and crew.

Guardiola is a big fan of Gasperini, but the man-to-man defensive setup he uses is a high-risk move that Pep has not chosen from his great mentor Marcelo Bielsa

Still, if the Blues want to avoid a fifth Premier League meeting in a row against United without a win, then they can learn a lot from Tuesday’s match at Bergamo.


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