Skip to content

Key man in Sunday’s Manchester Derby? Yaya Touré, of course

Dec 8, 2012, 8:19 AM EDT

Britain Soccer Premier League AP

Three finalists for 2012’s African Player of the Year were announced this week, though one candidate’s case makes him the clear favorite for the award. While Didier Drogba inspired in leading Chelsea to Champions League glory and Alex Song had his best year as a pro for Arsenal (mostly), neither player’s influence matched Yaya Touré’s. Though Robin van Persie’s goal totals won him last season’s major individual Premier League honors, Touré was the best player in the league, a dominating presence in the middle of the park that help capture Manchester City’s first Premier League title.

It’s no surprise Michael Cox, writing for the Guardian, picks out Touré when discussing keys to Sunday’s Manchester Derby. Against Manchester United, the Ivorian can be particularly influential against a team whose main weakness lie in the middle of the park.

Cox discusses Alex Ferguson’s options matching up with Touré in deep midfield, but it’s when Touré comes forward that Manchester City’s most effective. That Touré can start deep and still have a determining factor in the attacking phase (or, pushed forward later in matches) is part of what makes him an elite player. It’s also why relying on a forward to mark him (as, Cox illustrates, United has done in the past) is difficult to pull off. Touré can win most of those individual battles, and when he doesn’t, his movement forward pulls one of your attackers too far upfield.

MORE: Title to be settled in Manchester, again

Defensively, it’s better to concede Touré’s influence higher up the pitch and use a midfielder to pick up him as he ventures forward (something that almost requires playing three in the middle versus City). This is where Manchester United may miss a player like Anderson. The Brazilian midfielder has the strength and athleticism to compete with Touré, but sidelined with a hamstring injury, Anderson will miss tomorrow’s match. Ferguson’s other midfield options — Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, and Tom Cleverley — all beg a forward, Wayne Rooney, to come back into the picture.

Depending on how United set up, they may be able to dedicate Rooney to the role without undo damage to their attack. Ferguson has used a midfield diamond at various points throughout the season. If he plays Rooney at the top of that diamond, United can afford to have Rooney follow Touré deep into the defensive zone knowing the speed of Ashley Young and/or Antonio Valencia can bring van Persie and Javier Hernández back into the game.

MORE: Chelsea finally finds three in league

Valencia, however, presents another option, one Ferguson’s highly unlikely to use. For Ecuador, the nominal right winger has player through the middle. In England, he’s ill-equipped to do so from an attacking perspective, but Touré’s presence (and Manchester City’s dependence on it) might justify giving Valencia the role Park Ji-Sung tried to perform last October. With his speed and strength, could Valencia be the man to help mitigate Touré?

We’ll likely never know. At least, not tomorrow. The most likely scenario sees Ferguson trust Rooney to stymy Touré, though as Cox points out, there are drawbacks to that plan, too.

His preview’s worth the quick read.

Latest Posts
  1. Done Deal: Transfer activity roundup

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:57 PM EDT

    Cerezo Osaka v Manchester United Getty Images

    Roundup of football transfers across Europe today.

  2. Ancelotti: Real Madrid’s ‘attitude and concentration’ must change

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-PSG-PRESSER

    Real Madrid manager insisted that his squad just lost focus on Sunday when they were upset by Real Sociedad.

  3. Darren Fletcher ‘confident’ Manchester United will trump struggles

    Aug 31, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Galatasaray - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Darren Fletcher isn’t perturbed by Manchester United’s super-early season struggles.

  4. Toronto FC confirms Jermain Defoe transfer talks have taken place

    Aug 31, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT

    Toronto FC's Jermain Defoe scores from the penalty spot against San Jose Earthquakes during first half MLS action in Toronto on Saturday June 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young) AP

    Jermain Defoe has been linked away from Toronto FC, with a possible return back to England.

  5. HIGHLIGHTS: Real Madrid falls to Real Sociedad in remarkable comeback

    Aug 31, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT

    _77293433_hi023702086 Getty Images

    Real Madrid didn’t display their standard victorious level of play as Real Sociedad shocked Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

  6. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 2-0 New York Red Bulls

    Aug 31, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    DC United v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

    D.C. United keeps strong at the head of the Eastern Conference, defeating the New York Red Bulls, 2-0.

  7. Geoff Cameron removes himself from U.S. national team roster

    Aug 31, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT

    Geoff Cameron AP

    Geoff Cameron has withdrawn from the United States’ latest roster prepped for the Czech Republic match.

  8. Watch Live: DC United vs. New York Red Bulls (Lineups)

    Aug 31, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT

    RedBulls AP

    DC United hopes to fend off Bradley Wright-Phillips and company in the Atlantic Cup.

  9. Reports suggest Arsenal unlikely to sign a replacement striker for Giroud

    Aug 31, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    Sanogo Getty Images

    Despite Yaya Sanogo’s disappointing performance against Leicester City, Wenger may sit on his squad.

  10. Reports: “Chicharito” Hernandez close to loan at Real Madrid

    Aug 31, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT

    Hernandez Getty Images

    After spending a career on the bench at Manchester United, he’s going to another club where he’ll likely be a backup.

  11. Leicester City 1-1 Arsenal: Home side holds strong for draw

    Aug 31, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT

    Leicester Getty Images

    Leo Ulloa hit back at Arsenal’s early goal and Leicester held on strong against a tired and wasteful Arsenal.

  12. Judging by his debut, Brendan Rodgers has broken through Mario Balotelli’s mental block

    Aug 31, 2014, 12:23 PM EDT

    BalotelliRodgers Getty Images

    It appears the usually erratic, angry, and impulsive Mario Balotelli is nowhere to be found, and the Liverpool manager is to thank.

  13. Done deal: Chelsea sign Loic Remy from QPR

    Aug 31, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT

    Picture credit: Squawka Picture credit: Squawka

    With Torres, Lukaku, and Ba all gone and Costa proving injury prone, Remy comes in as cover at Stamford Bridge.

  14. Watch Live: Leicester City vs. Arsenal (Lineups)

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    Sanogo AP

    Yaya Sanogo starts up front in place of the injured Olivier Giroud. Esteban Cambiasso is on the bench for Leicester.

  15. Aston Villa 2-1 Hull City: Swarming start, shaky finish leave Villa undefeated still

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    VillaHull Getty Images

    Aston Villa were bright nearly the whole match but struggled to fend off Hull late in a close victory.

  16. Tottenham 0-3 Liverpool: Familiar scenes as Reds storm Spurs in London

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT

    Liverpool Getty Images

    Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard both scored as Liverpool rocked Spurs yet again in London.

  17. Reports: Alessio Cerci to Atletico Madrid is nearing completion

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:53 AM EDT

    Cerci Getty Images

    Torino continues to sell off last year’s successful attack force for a big profit.

Featured video

Week 3: Saturday Premier League recap