In the past few years, for probably the first time ever, the Manchester derby has turned into the best rivalry in the Premier League. Manchester United have always been involved in that sort of thing, but this is relativity new territory for City, who are looking to put their Champions League woes with some more Premier League glory.
You know Alex Ferguson is frightened, or at least wary of you when the trash talk begins. This time on two fronts for United: First Ferguson, by doing his usual trick of trying to influence the referees. It worked in the past, mind you. Ferguson said that City have won more penalty kicks than anyone over the past three seasons. Ryan Giggs said that the rivalry with Liverpool is more important. What did Mancini have to say in return?
Quite a lot actually. Obviously, he leagued at Ferguson pointing out the penalty record; United won just as many penalty kicks as City did over the same time frame. It just happened to be that City players don’t usually dive to win them, while events leading up to some of United’s penalty kicks have both been a bit more controversial and yes, get blown up by the media as well. Mancini also said that he’s got time to win the Champions League, because Ferguson needed 14 years to reach that goal. Mancini forgot to say the kind of funds at his disposal.
But on to football. Manchester City haven’t lost a league match yet this season. With all of their complacency this year, and it’s hard to argue it’s oozing off the players in certain matches, they’re very much in the title race, three points behind Manchester United. The question will be if they’ll be going for the win, or simply draw out this match to a slow pace, which doesn’t fit United’s gung-ho style while Masncini hopes for something to spark his players.
Ferguson has different worries on his mind. Who does he play as centre backs doesn’t seem to matter; his team concedes goals anyway. Does he go with a more defensive partnership in the midfield or opt for a quicker one, with Cleverley and Anderson, while Michael Carrick players from behind. His approach to the opening moments will probably similar to their win at Stamford Bridge, starting the match with two quick goals. Fearing the Manchester City grinder, which physically might be too much for his defense to deal with, he needs quick goals to make him feel comfortable.
City outplayed Manchester United in both matches last season, but it seems almost everyone on the side is having a poor or disappointing campaign individually. Sergio Aguero is the only certain name in his group of strikers. Mancini needs his two creative midfielders, Samir Nasri and David Silva, to start playing like its last season, more than all. Those in front of them won’t have problems scoring goals once that happens.
For United, it’s mostly on Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney. They’re not going to dominate possession, so it’s going to be up to them and find a way through City’s up & down form on defense, and especially Vincent Kompany.
Prediction – This feels like a draw, but I still sense City have the better team, and that the Champions League failure might shake this team up. Can’t see United winning this match, with a draw being a pretty good result considering they’re lead in the table.