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. VIDEO: Brendan Rodgers concerned about Liverpool’s defensive issues

    Oct 25, 2014, 8:25 AM EDT

    Just what is going wrong at the back for Liverpool? Brendan Rodgers has a theory…

  2. WATCH: Premier League online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 9

    Oct 25, 2014, 7:02 AM EDT

    Live Extra

    Where and how to watch every PL game during Week 9 live online or via the app.

  3. Mauricio Pochettino says Paulinho will stay at Spurs

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    FK Partizan v Tottenham Hotspur FC - UEFA Europa League Getty Images

    The midfielder is yet to make a Premier League start this season as rumors surfaced that he could return to Brazil on loan.

  4. Chicago Fire 2-1 Houston Dynamo: Stoppage-time winner caps off Chicago comeback (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT

    Daniel Paladini, Markus Holgersson Getty Images

    Chicago ended their season with a win as Florent Sinama-Pongolle tallied in stoppage time to erase Houston’s first half lead.

  5. AT THE HALF: Houston lead Chicago 1-0 off Omar Cummings header (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:22 PM EDT

    Sporting Kansas City v Chicago Fire Getty Images

    You can watch the match live on NBCSN or online via Live Extra.

  6. Report: 76ers owner close to buying Crystal Palace

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:51 PM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Neil Warnock could be answering to a new boss if American billionaire Josh Harris purchases Palace.

  7. Major League Soccer suspends referee after arrest for fraud

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Chicago Fire v Colorado Rapids Getty Images

    Jose Carlos Rivero was charged with two felonies earlier this month but continued to work games for the MLS.

  8. WATCH: Red Bulls sign five-year-old with rare genetic disorder

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:27 PM EDT

    DC United v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

    The New York Red Bulls made a young girl’s dream come true as she signed a one-day contract with her favorite team.

  9. Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Arsenal

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch the Black Cats host the Gunners at 9:45 a.m. ET online via Live Extra.

  10. Serbia awarded win but docked points after melee against Albania

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT

    FBL-EURO-2016-SRB-ALB Getty Images

    UEFA handed Serbia a 3-0 win but deducted points after their match against Albania was called off due to violence.

  11. Rio Ferdinand plans to retire after this season

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:43 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The former England captain and Manchester United legend plans to retire after his season at QPR.

  12. Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Leicester City

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch as Leicester City travels to Liberty Stadium tomorrow live on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET.

  13. Juventus agrees to new deal with Premier League transfer rumor mill mainstay Paul Pogba

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Pogba broke through with 9 goals and 10 assists across all competitions for Juventus last season and a goal and assist at the World Cup.

  14. A coach tells a fan tells a ticket rep… How soccer fans and the Red Bulls created this adorable goal video

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT

    newyorkredbulls.com newyorkredbulls.com

    It’s a little dusty in here. Godspeed, Irelyn. May a cure be found in short order!

  15. Still defending racial incident, seething at bite talk, Suarez returns for Barcelona

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Luis Suarez, Neymar AP

    It’s going to be ugly and we’re going to shake our heads. Some will feign shock. And the whole cycle will repeat itself again at Barcelona.

  16. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT

    DiMaria Getty Images

    Here’s how PST’s editor and lead writer sees things panning out this weekend.

  17. Americans Abroad preview: Eyes on BuLi – Green, Brooks, Johnson tested

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Fabian-Johnson-Borussia-Moenchengladbach-Getty-Images Getty Images

    Perhaps a respite for Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, as their clubs face lesser competition this week in Burnley and QPR, respectively.

  18. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 9

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every game during Week 9 of the PL.

  19. Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. Manchester City

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer League Cup

    It’s a top-four battle — no, seriously — as Manchester City rolls into Upton Park to take on Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United.

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?