McMahon: City too strong for United

Fox Sports pundit Steve McMahon claims there can only be one winner in the upcoming FA Cup Manchester derby and that's the blue half.

Between the legs of De Gea....
Steve McMahon

By Steve McMahon

This latest clash between the two rivals will have a sharper edge to it than usual, given that it will be the first time they will meet since City thrashed United 6-1 at Old Trafford.

In my opinion, the Citizens will come out on top yet again. With the incredible depth and talent they have on the bench, even their second XI is better than United's starting line-up. That being said, United's pedigree means Roberto Mancini is unlikely to go all out and start with two strikers up front.

I've constantly praised the Italian for setting his team out to play positive football and no one should criticise him for being negative if he starts Sergio Aguero in the hole behind the striker - be it Mario Balotelli or Edin Dzeko - instead of two out and out marksmen.

Every single United player will have to be at his absolute best if the Premier League champions have to have any chance whatsoever. The one area that they could look to exploit is down the flanks. Gael Clichy and Micah Richards look more comfortable going forward than defending, which means United could get some joy if Nani and Antonio Valencia have a good game.

Of course, United themselves are beset by defensive problems of their own, especially with the number of injuries they have. They don't know who to play or who is fit! That's not a good sign against a side as strong as City are in the attack.

This month was always going to be one of high-profile encounters for Mancini's men - one in which they were scheduled to meet Liverpool thrice (once in the Premier League, twice in the Carling Cup) and United (in the FA Cup) once.

The first of their three encounters with Liverpool was played out on Tuesday and City were clearly the stronger side at Eastlands. It was undoubtedly a drubbing and one that throws up many questions from the Reds' perspective.

I'm not sure what Kenny Dalglish was thinking, playing Andy Carroll up front, instead of Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt, who played on the wing.

Bellamy especially was a baffling omission. He has the pace to trouble defences and would have been on a high after his brace against Newcastle. By leaving him out, Dalglish is not giving him a chance to get any sort of consistent goal-scoring form going.

It wouldn't have been a bad idea to give Steven Gerrard a full hour of playing time either. By the time he came on, Liverpool were already two down and it was too late. Of course, had Luis Suarez been present, things might have panned out differently.

Overall, Liverpool are struggling to keep pace with the top-four and would be lucky to land a Champions League place at the end of the season, unless some major personnel changes are made this month.

More immediately though, they need to think of ways to overcome City in the Carling Cup. For starters, they can drop Carroll and start with Bellamy or Kuyt up front!

For their part, City will miss Yaya Toure when he leaves for the Africa Cup of Nations. He, along with David Silva, was immense on Tuesday night, and the duo is more than a match of anyone in the league at the moment. But as I said before, Mancini has enough men at his disposal to cope with Toure's departure.

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