So the most important Derby in the history of either club since 1974 takes place between United and City tomorrow in a game that could have massive repercussions for both sides.
A United win will all but make the Premier League title race a two horse one and could give The Reds the boost and impetus they need to move away from Arsenal at the business end of the season and win that elusive 19th title.
If the unthinkable happens and City win, then the title race is blown wide open as that would put them only two points behind United- although we’d still have a game in hand.
A draw is arguably a better result for United as it would still leave The Reds top of the league -regardless of whatever Arsenal do against Wolves – and would obviously leave City five points behind us, with them having played an extra game.
The history of both clubs is well documented and for even the most ardent City fan to claim this is a clash of Britain’s two biggest or moist successful teams would be foolish to say the least- although that hasn’t stopped many of them.
What the game does represent is a chance for City to try and if not overhaul United, then at least move towards becoming their equal and let the whole world know that the Sheikh Mansour revolution is beginning to come to fruition. City fans will claim a win would represent a shift on power in Manchester, but to be fair that’s a load of old cobblers.
Yes, it would be a ‘bitter’ blow if City were to beat us in our back yard, but let’s get some rational perspective, in terms of the title race, United would still be in the driving seat and as Liverpool proved two season’s ago, a win at Old Trafford isn’t always enough.
It’s not just points, title races and the psychology of it all on the players, that’s at stake tomorrow, for many United fans there’s something far more important… bragging rights.
Going into work on a Monday morning is like facing you’re partner after you accidentally sent her the text that was meant for your mistress, it’s pain-inducing, grueling, stomach sickening experience that makes you wish you hadn’t wasted all your sick days recovering from the last win against Liverpool .
I’ll never forget driving to Old Trafford the night we beat Chelsea in the Champion’s League Final, descending on the ground with a car full of screaming Reds with a convoy of others, it was a fantastic feeling.
Turning on the local radio I was treated to this gem from someone phoning in: “United may have won the Champion’s League, they may have won the Prem, but City beat them home and away this season, so we’re the best team in Manchester.” Even the normally objective radio presenter told him to get a grip -or words to that effect.
A win for United will make life a whole lot better for the fans for at least a week or two- depending on how convincing it is and allow the Red half of the City to give the poor little mites from Stockport a consolatory pat on the head telling them to: “come back when you’ve spent another £300 million.”
Going into the game, City have won just once in the last 26 years, on the 50th anniversary of Munich- perhaps Sir Matt looking down, decided to let them have a day in the sun for behaving themselves – safe in the knowledge we were on our way to the double.
United’s home record is ridiculous having won 12 and drawn one in the League at Old Trafford this season, while on their travels City have a fairly inconsistent record of six wins, four draws and three losses.
As every commentator with a microphone will tell you “on derby day, form goes out of the window,” and while this may not be entirely accurate, there’s no denying the cup final nature of it all that makes this game feel like a one-off.
There’s no denying the loss of Rio Ferdinand is a massive blow for United and don’t even get me started on the Chicharito debacle- why on earth is one of our most dangerous players unable to play in a vital game because of international commitments? With Park returning it leaves Rio, Valencia, Chicharito, Evans and Hargreaves as the unavailable ones.
Ones to Watch / Head to Head
Carlos Tevez- Let’s not pretend that the most talked about man in Manchester over the past week is anything other than a potent threat and far and away City’s most worrying player. For all the megabucks they’ve p*ssed up the wall, the money spent on Tevez was the best piece of business they could have done. With 18 goals in 23 EPL games this season, he’s always a threat.
Chris Smalling may well be charged with keeping an eye on him as he has a little bit more pace than the far more experienced Vidic, whoever it is though will need to remain focused for 90 (+7) minutes. As Tevez showed in the Carling Cup he only needs half a chance. Rafael may decide he wants a piece of the Argentinean in the tunnel though, so don’t be wholly shocked if Tevez takes to the field limping and holding his eye.
Nigel De Jong- Although the Dutchman is a doubt, I’m going to stick my neck out and predict he’ll start. He may not seem that important but in my opinion City are a far better team when he plays- he’s the one that does all the -very- dirty work that allows the likes of David Silva, Tevez, Yaya Toure and whoever get on with the job of creating and scoring goals.
I expect a real battle between him and either Anderson or Fletcher tomorrow, even though De Jong will try and stop the likes of Carrick or Scholes creating things for United, when players like Ando, Fletcher and De Jong share a pitch there’s destined to be fireworks. One thing’s for sure, the lovable, good looking gentleman won’t get away with any of the shenaningans he’s used against the likes of Ben Arfa and Xabi Alonso at Old Trafford.
David Silva- Silva can play almost anywhere along the midfield and behind the attack. I have a sneaky feeling he may be deployed down the left hand side at Old Trafford and if so I think Rafael will be more than up to the job of keeping him quiet. Silva is an incredibly gifted player, who was once thought to be heading to United. Silva is skillful quick and can score goals, but his only down side is he can occasionally go missing when the going gets a little tough.
Let’s hope the little Brazilian makes the Spaniard regret his decision to sign for the blue half of Manchester.
It certainly won’t be an easy game and Mancini may send out a defensive minded team to try and stifle United and go for the draw- despite his team really needing a win, I think it’s just his nature. Even though, there’s a lot of hype about this game and how close it will be, I’m expecting United to win in a high scoring game, with Berbatov, Rooney and Nani all on the score sheet.
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