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Erik ten Hag to drop two in-form Manchester United players vs Man City

Two of Manchester United’s best players might not be suited to the team’s strategy against Manchester City on Sunday.

The way the Manchester derby will unfold on Sunday afternoon already seems quite certain. While Manchester United will wait to attack on the break, Man City will control the ball and try to probe their opponents.

Perhaps a more pertinent concern is how long Erik ten Hag’s team can resist the anticipated attack, considering that their prospects of winning the game will almost certainly depend on seizing the few opportunities they have.

Since there doesn’t seem to be much chance of a perfect storm where United is playing at their best and City is struggling, it makes the most sense for United to counterattack and use their strengths as a team.

Ten Hag believes that in the long run, United will be able to compete with and defeat its fiercest opponents, but it would be foolish to take that kind of approach this weekend against such formidable opponents and while they are still a work in progress.

Ten Hag will have to make a few merciless phone calls in order to do this. For such a crucial game, it could be best to play the numbers with a Solskjaer-esque selection; pragmatism should take precedence over flair.

It’s a cliché that form is irrelevant for a match of this significance, and it’s possible that United’s players who are performing well leave the club as well.

An method like this might require dropping a few players who are performing well, prioritising pressing metrics like fitness levels over originality and skill from the outset.

Casemiro has a “race against the clock” to be fit for the game, but because of his manager’s great regard for him, it feels as though he might be taken a chance if needed.

If that’s the case, it will be interesting to watch who plays in midfield with him. The utility player on form is Scott McTominay, but Ten Hag has already mentioned Sofyan Amrabat as a possible partner, so this may be the ideal fit for him.

Amrabat has underwhelmed thus far in a United shirt during matches when there has been an onus on his side to attack and break down their opponents, but he could excel in a defensive role when his side have their backs to the wall.

It could also mean that Christian Eriksen drops out of the team despite changing the game so well both against Sheffield United and against Copenhagen in midweek.

The Danish midfielder is the most in-form of any United player right now, but he is another whose skillset is better suited to matches when his side are on top rather than when there is dirty work to be done.

In his place, Bruno Fernandes or Mason Mount could lead the midfield, with the other selected in a makeshift right-wing role with a focus on dropping back to defend and pressing high to harass their opponents.

That would suggest that Eriksen may once again be a crucial substitute who changes the course of games at Old Trafford. If United can maintain pressure on the opposition in the first half of the match, Eriksen might be a good bet to attempt and win all three points.

Even though McTominay and Eriksen are performing well, they still don’t belong on the squad.

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