Formation questions, defensive selection and rotation options all feature in our post-derby talking points.
Form and function
Manuel Pellegrini loves to play the Beautiful Game – but there can be steel behind the silk when required. City put the extra man in midfield at Old Trafford, with Fernando starting his first game in three alongside Fernandinho and a more advanced Yaya Toure. It might not have been pretty at times but United rarely threatened Joe Hart as a result. City made 27 tackles to United’s 19, with Fernandinho and Fernando contributing 10 of those. City’s possession stats were down at 43 per cent, and the quality of the possession was not fantastic either with a 72 per cent pass completion rate. But on what was always going to be a difficult afternoon without Sergio Aguero, David Silva and the other absentees, it was a job professionally done.
Boss Manuel Pellegrini has tough decisions to make right across his defence. At the start of the season Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala impressed in a run of clean sheets. When Kompany suffered an injury, new signing Nicolas Otamendi linked up well with Mangala – well enough for the skipper to have to wait his turn to get back in. Man-of-the-match Otamendi and Kompany were excellent at Old Trafford, which should leave Mangala busting a gut to apply pressure for the shirt. At full back Bacary Sagna edged ahead of stalwart Pablo Zabaleta, and when Gael Clichy recovers from injury to contest the left-back spot, healthy competition should be the order of the day right across the back four.
Since his City debut on 12 September Kevin De Bruyne has played a lung-bursting 12 times (including twice for Belgium), while his team-mate on the opposite flank Raheem Sterling has turned out on 10 occasions. The Capital One Cup does give Pellegrini the option of rotating his first XI, with youngsters Kelechi Iheanacho, Patrick Roberts and Spanish winger Jesus Navas options to come into the attack. Fernandinho will take an enforced break through suspension after his yellow at United.
Grind it out
City are in the middle of an intensive run of games. Having won two and drawn one post international break, they now face down four more games in a fortnight, including the League Cup clash with Palace, two Premier League games against Norwich (h) and Villa (a) plus the Champions League trip to Sevilla. It is now a mental and physical test to get through these games with campaigns still going strongly on three fronts. We learned from the Old Trafford game that City have the battling qualities to achieve that.
Iheanacho has already downed the Eagles once this season with his injury time strike at Selhurst Park in the Premier League. He could well get another chance on Wednesday, given he was the forward brought on at Old Trafford. He has now made six Premier League appearances and continues to make encouraging steps.