I’ve always been one for bold, foolish, sweeping statements when it comes to sport and I’m basing this match preview on another – tomorrow could decide the title.
Obviously I’m saying this with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek but there is a real element of truth to the statement when thinking about tomorrow’s game. United, for so many different reasons, can’t afford to drop points. Performance means nothing tomorrow. It’s all about the points gained or dropped.
Team News – United
De Gea came back midweek in the Champions’ League home defeat but he cannot bear any responsibility for that as he was beaten by one of the best goals seen at Old Trafford in a long time. I’m sincerely hoping that Ferguson affords him the jersey tomorrow.
At right back I’m expecting and hoping to see Rafael come back. Ok, he had bit of a ‘mare against Reading but, Christ, who in defence didn’t?! Jones and Smalling do offer Ferguson some alternatives if he feels that Rafael isn’t right for tomorrow but with City’s lack of height out wide Rafael wouldn’t be a major risk if started. Evra should resume his great run of form at left back against a formidable City attack. He’ll have to ensure that whilst his attacking tendencies are well appreciated, he needs to be on his game at the back tomorrow. In the middle Vidic remains out (although, I wouldn’t be massively surprised to see Ferguson pull off a Scholes-comebackesque move and throw him in if fit). Ferdinand is likely to play at the back alongside one of Smalling or Evans.
I have no idea how Ferguson will play the midfield tomorrow. Cleverley is a risk after a slight injury midweek but there was no guarantee he’d be starting anyway. Scholes, Giggs, Fletcher and Carrick are all match fit and Fergie may fancy starting with at least one of Scholes or Giggs in order to beef up the experience in midfield. Nani remains sidelined through injury as does Valencia so this could force Ferguson’s hand into playing a three man midfield. If this occurs then Young, who has been finding some form of late, may well miss out.
Rooney and Van Persie are nailed on to start up front but the big question is will anyone else be alongside them? If there’s three in midfield, will Rooney be asked to drop deep to play in behind RVP and Hernandez or Welbeck?
Kolorov and Richards are out and Silva, Milner and Rodwell are all facing a battle to be fit for the first Manchester derby of the season. The big issue for me, and one that could decide the match (and title?!) is who plays up front for City? If Mancini starts with Tevez and Aguero then I’m not going to look forward to watching it. If we see Balotelli or Dzeko start then it could be a good day for United. Whilst Fergie is messing around with his first choice ‘keeper, Mancini seems to be doing the same with his first choice strike partnerships.
Why do I think that the title could be decided so early in the season? Well, in reality, we all know it won’t be. However, if United can steal a march on City tomorrow then that could give us a great springboard from which to leap into the bust Christmas schedule and maybe pull further away. However, if City draw level on points tomorrow then they’ll feel very confident that for the rest of a Europe-less season, they’ll be able to string together a title winning run. Tomorrow could water that seed of doubt that must already be planted at the Etihad after such a poor European adventure. Toure, Balotelli, Hart have all lost form. Even Kompany doesn’t seem the player he was last season. How will they all fare tomorrow?
The glass that gave me today’s hangover was half full when I woke this morning so I’m tipping United to sneak a 2-1 tomorrow.
Match Betting (odds provided by WilliamHill)
• United to win 2-1 @10/1
• Van Persie to score two or more @7/1
• City to be winning at half time and United to win @28/1
• Red card at anytime? @2/1
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