This weekend’s 158th Manchester derby isn’t the most important fixture between the city’s preeminent football clubs, despite the inevitable hype. Far from it. But the match will go a long way towards deciding the fates of both United and City, with 13 Premier League matches remaining this season.
While defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers last Saturday reduced the Reds’ lead in the title race to just four points – five over City – United remains in pole position to take a 19th domestic league title come May. For City the match could effectively end Roberto Mancini’s hopes of title glory this season.
United’s 2-1 loss at Molineux has reinvigorate the challenge from Arsenal, Chelsea and City after Sir Alex Ferguson’s outfit reeled off a 29 match unbeaten run in the Premier League, 24 of them this season. The sequence of results, despite criticism over United’s performances, particularly evident away from home, meant that Ferguson’s side had threatened to run away with the title race.
Not so and a second defeat in a row could mean just a one point lead for United after the weekend’s fixtures. By a quirk of the fixture calendar Arsenal faces Wolves on Saturday, while Chelsea visits Fulham – both eminently winnable fixtures. It’s a challenge that United’s Scottish midfielder Darren Fletcher believes United will rise to, with the Reds arguably facing the toughest fixture list of any leading club.
“You have got to earn the title,” said the 26-year-old midfielder.
“Nobody gives you the trophy. The team that wins the league will be the team that deserved it and showed the best form throughout the season. That is always said and hopefully we can prove our title credentials in the next few months.
“The big games can ultimately win you trophies. We’ve got to go to Liverpool and Arsenal, still play Chelsea twice and we have Manchester City this weekend. But we enjoy big games. This club is all about performing and rising to challenges.”
Three of those fixtures are away from Old Trafford where United’s form has yielded just three wins on the road in the Premier League – at Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Blackpool. Indeed, United’s points tally away from Old Trafford is better only than Liverpool of the current top six.
But Fletcher says that there is no complacency in the United camp despite the healthy league lead. If anything the sobering loss to Wolves and the accompanying performance – as insipid a United display as anything witnessed by supporters in the past five years – will have refocused the players’ minds.
“We know they lie ahead of us. We’re not naïvely thinking that the league is over,” added the Scot who is certain to start at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime.
“I am not saying we are going to win the treble, but we are still in all competitions and looking well. We are in a good position in the league but by no means are we taking that for granted.
“We are looking to kick on and keep winning these matches. The Premier League has shown that it is getting even more competitive. There have been so many shock results this season. We have to be wary of that and make sure we go into every game in top form.”
Meanwhile, Mancini’s Blues continue to perform sporadically. Victory over West Brom at the weekend followed a disappointing draw with Birmingham City and the recent loss to Aston Villa.
Criticism of the Italian’s tactics has been rife too and not without justification. Mancini’s tendency to deploy three holding midfielders in a five man midfield has led to accusations of a defensive-minded approach. Indeed, City’s ultra-negative outlook at Eastlands earlier this season produced a lifeless goalless draw in the 157th derby.
However, the recent £27 million acquisition Edin Džeko could start at Old Trafford along with Carlos Tevez and the returning Ballotelli. Throw Adam Johnson, David Silva and James Milner into the mix and City can boast a potent attacking force – if Mancini chooses to use them of course.
Saturday’s game is also conveniently close to the 35th anniversary of City’s last trophy, earned with a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United to win the League Cup on 28 February 1976. And much as Mancini promised to “tear that banner down” it will inevitably tick over in the coming weeks.
Saturday’s match, should it end in defeat for City, will surely end the Blues remaining hopes of title glory. With City out of the Carling Cup, facing a replay with Notts County in the FA Cup and up to 10 more matches in the Europa League, there is the distinct possibility the banner will tick over to 36 years before the Blue half of Manchester can claim another trophy.
In tandem with the club’s heavy spending, the conspicuous lack of silverware means the pressure is firmly on Mancini to deliver at least fourth place in the Premier League by May. A negative result could put even that scenario in doubt, with Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea each holding a game in hand and Liverpool resurgent under Kenny Dalglish.
Ferguson’s outfit will remain top whatever the result on Saturday. Victory, however, will go a long way towards securing that coveted 19th title in addition to those all important local bragging rights.
31 thoughts on “Derby central to Red and Blue ambition”
It’ll be a draw
if we don’t score in the first 20 we won’t score
we’ll play 451 if rio don’t play so…
will that streak of piss Evans be around?
Keep Evans out of the way FFS
gib-cuntfuckwankrimcockpussytwat-son will no doubt start in our creative middle
will we leave scholes on the bench for no reason again
Should he even be on the bench? *cue Alfe and co*
This is true.
What do we need Scholes for? After all, we have Carrick, Gibson, Anderson.
“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”
If city come out and have a go then we’ll beat them; if they play so as not to get beaten then a draw is likely.
Tevez is hot… with him playing against Evans… we’ll be very, very lucky to keep them from scoring.
And their goals against… is even better than ours.
We’ll need to be at our best… both defensively and attack… end of.
evans and gibson is like having two less players – its gonna be 9 against 11 – their defence is fucked though – hang on we got evans.
Is the scouser still a real player or not?
If Man City play Tevez, Ballotelli and Dzeko and United play Evans, O’Shea and Gibson, leave the stadium or change the channel on your TV to avoid a heart attack.
Herbie – Christ, its not a pretty thought. I’m missing the game – will be in Barcelona. Mind you I could do some scouting, heard about this chap L.Messi, supposed to be half decent.
Tevez will rip us a new one…Hey Alf, you heard it here first!
lol Herbs – you have the makings of a fine ranter
At least he’s noticed the “reply” button…
At best we will draw. I have lost faith in our players.
Surely it HAS to be…
Rafael – Vidic – Smalling – Evra
Nani – Fletcher – Scholes/Anderson – Giggs
Rooney – Berbatov
Anderson does seem to step up for the big games to be fair, and Scholes has been lacking of late. Giggs continues to pull brilliance out of the bag but it’s not IF he’ll fade, but WHEN.
Wouldn’t rule out Park being involved. In fact surely with Park back, there’s less chance of Gibson inflicting his shitness on us?
There’s no excuse whatsoever for Gibson or O’Shea playing. NONE. Or Obertan. Carrick is odd; keeps showing signs of form returning, then he plays utterly shit. But hardly an impact sub.
Subs: Fabio, Brown, Hernandez, Owen, Scholes/Anderson, Park, PiG
city will play three dm plus milner, why do we need fletcher ffs, he’s not gonna open em up is he, he has no business playing football matches
Shitty will play 5 across the midfield and will hold out for a draw.
Fergie,because of exercising caution,will also play 4-5-1 with the only difference being that Ji Sung Park will be asked to man mark either Silva,Johnson or SWP.
And yes I’m also expecting Giggs to start in CM alongside Fletcher and Carrick.
tbf giggs makes a great midfielder, he does what anderson was bought to do but never does as a result of always being on the bench
Alan Brazil was talking up Gibson on Talksport this morning, saying he should move on to get more game time. But he’s getting plenty of game time and fucking it up, and Alan Brazil was shit, and talksport is ear cancer
Gibson is shite but he is one of the few United players who would probably benefit from moving on as right now his laziness is likely based on complacency…he doesn’t need to try because he (a) believes Scholes, Fletch, Rio etc will win the title regardless of whatever he does and (b) he is getting paid a shedload of wonga to do sweet FA. Likewise, I would imagine that the senior players in the squad rarely go up to him in the dressing room and say “you were shite out there” as he is such a peripheral figure in the squad.
It would do him good as a player to move onto a side like Stoke or Birmingham where his performance on the pitch directly influences his own career and that of his colleagues…a couple of shite performances could be the difference between being a Premier League player or a Championship player, and I bet his team-mates wouldn’t hesitate to give him an earful if he was woeful as they wouldn’t want to suffer because he wasn’t holding his end up.
alan brazil was not shit – ok not brilliant but definitely a half decent player at spurs and also united
ffs anyone would think united had imploded
it was 1 defeat u sack of spunk wads
united will win on saturday
shrek and co will be up for it no worries
Cit play with no ambition whatsoever against anyone half decent
Now they’re not as shit as they were last season it will be interesting to see whether they give us the centre circle like they did last season
Part of me thinks they’ll be avin it but Mancini doesn’t show enough ambition in these big games to still be in the job when they are a proper top team
The Bluenoses won’t win as Mancini is too defensive and will instruct them to park the bus. That was his strategy at OilLands so it beggars belief to expect he would tell his team to go for it at OT.
Unfortunately I’m not convinced we currently have the creativity to get past the 14 holding men that Mancini will be sticking in his midfield, so bottom line, I am expecting a bit of a bore draw.
Would love to be wrong though – would love to see another thriller like we had last season.
I think we might see Park and his three lungs tomorrow. A sorry sight when we play at home against lesser teams, but in games against the top 5 he’s always influential.
City will lineup exactly the same as at Eastlands: 451. Other than Tevez, the only possible other attacking threat will be Silva. Mancini’s job this year is to get them into the Cahmpions League, that’s all he’s focusing on, so they’ll go for a draw from the kick off.
Provided United play from the start with a decent tempo, we should win this. Remember they still have Kolo Toure, fat arse Barry and Hart has looked dodgy in recent weeks. We need the good version of Nani to turn up and we’ll create chances.
Is it just my bad memory, or have we been crap at early kick offs recently?
taggart says smalling will play