By Michael Cantillon
The Citizens are a diminished force without their two star players, Anthony Martial is a threat wherever he plays and what we learned from Manchester United 0 Manchester City 0.
City need Aguero and Silva for marquee matches
Despite the £50million fees spent on Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne, City are a weakened team without Aguero and Silva. Last week they destroyed Bournemouth 5-1 without the duo, and in games against sides from the lower echelons of the Premier League, City have a strong enough squad to win matches. Against the big guns, greater firepower is required. Manuel Pellegrini’s team badly missed Aguero’s cutting edge and Silva’s invention against United. Both have wonderful derby records. Aguero has five goals against United and Silva has an outstanding record against his team’s big rivals (his display in the landmark 6-1 win at Old Trafford in 2012 is one of the great Premier League performances).
Martial still a threat on the flank
Deployed on the left flank, Martial was comfortably United’s biggest attacking threat. Bacary Sagna had his work cut out dealing the with the teenager’s pace and ability to cut inside and create openings. He possibly carved out the best chance of the day late-on when his incisive dribbling and neat pass presented Jesse Lingard with a chance to win the game, but the substitute hit the bar. Martial will undoubtedly end up predominantly as a central striker, but he looks a threat wherever he plays at the moment and that gives Louis Van Gaal a major attacking weapon in a team hardly brimming with pace.
Rojo is more comfortable at left-back
Rojo, who has played primarily as a centre-half since joining United after the 2014 World Cup, was outstanding at left-back today. De Bruyne would have been regarded as one of the major threats to the home side beforehand but the Belgian never came close to getting round or past the United defender. Sterling was substituted early in the second half, De Bruyne was switched over to the left-flank and Rojo marshalled Jesus Navas with equal comfort. Blessed with fantastic recovery pace, strength and determination, Rojo showed why left-back should be his permanent position.
Bony is no Aguero
He received little in the way of blue-chip service but Wilfried Bony struggled to impose himself on the fixture. His hold-up play was neat and tidy, but he never really caused Smalling or Jones any serious concerns. As the game wore on, City slipped back into a counter-attacking game as Bony saw less and less of the ball and he was a virtually invisible presence. Despite his proven track record at this level, Bony is not of the same standard as Aguero and lacks the ability to stretch defences in the final third of the pitch. In big fixtures, he is struggling to cut it.
Otamendi is shaping up as a great signing
This was a tough assignment for the summer signing but he demonstrated his worth with five-star display. Signed for £28.5million from Valencia, the 27-year-old has bolstered a City backline that was so leaky last year. Preferred to 2014 signing Eliaquim Mangala, the Argentine dealt with Rooney with ease and was as comfortable on the ball as his countryman Martin Demichelis would have been. Otamendi was a worthy man of the match.
By Michael Cantillon