As football cliches go, “form goes out of the window” when talking about a local derby, is a classic. As we approach this weekend’s Manchester derby, with both teams bang in form and battling it out at the top of the Premier League, anything could happen. Throughout the history of the Premier League, more often than not, United fans would have gone in to the Manchester derby knowing their team is a bit better than City’s, and even though they probably didn’t let on, they would have had a bit more confidence. To throw another cliche into the mix, you are only as good as your last season, and now the power has shifted, now that City are the current title holders, has fan mentality coming in to the Manchester Derby changed? Football Rascal wanted to know and who better to ask than a Manchester City season ticket holder – Liam – and Manchester United season ticket holder – Dan. Lets get stuck in:
1) Boys, Roberto Mancini claims City “can’t afford to lose on Sunday”, whilst Fergie said a win “will be one of our best-ever results”. Sounds like game of the season, except Ryan Giggs maintains Liverpool remain United’s main rivals. What is your view on the modern-day Manchester derby?
Liam: From my point of view, it’s not particularly a game I’d like to lose but “can’t afford” is a bit strong. For me, it’s too early in the season for the game to have too much importance apart from the rivalry. If we win we go level on points, if United win they go six clear – which as any United fan/player will tell you is not enough after what happened at the end of last season. I’m not really bothered about what Giggs has to say, after all, he’ll probably tell you to crack on with a long standing affair with your sister-in-law. Too many of a certain age or certain location in the country (/world) will say Liverpool will always be United’s biggest rivals because that’s the way they’ve been brought up, or that’s what Sky have told them to do. There’s a lot that would now say we are their biggest rivals. For years we’ve been labelled as ‘sad’ and ‘obsessed’ with them, seems like the other way round these days.
Dan: I think both managers are playing mind games ahead of Sunday. Last season showed that – sadly – even an eight-point gap in March isn’t decisive, therefore I can’t see how City being six points behind in December could be devastating for them, while I think Fergie’s would regard this as one his finest wins against City, definitely not one his finest achievements per se. As for Giggs, I totally agree with him. The rivalry has always been there but the derby has become what it has become in recent years only because of the money that has become available to City. For history and tradition, Liverpool will always be our main rivals even though they’re only a mid-table club now.
2) Express yourself, its one-on-one – ‘Winning the derby would be quality because…’
Liam: It always is. But as a contemporary issue; we’ve been getting a bit of a kicking in the press for our European form (rightly so), and we’ve not really had the same level of performance as we witnessed last year, but to beat them would show the country that we want to retain our title.
Dan: It would open a six point gap at the top of the table, which is always a good position to be in going into the Christmas period. And obviously come Monday morning when the banter is flowing if you’ve lost it isn’t a great experience, but after the 6-1 and the final game of last season it can hardly get any worse. Mind you, while bragging rights and being top of the table are important, neither is crucial at this stage of the season.
3) How are your pre-derby nerves nowadays since City won the league?
Liam: Winning the league doesn’t change my mentality. I hate going into derbies after we’ve won the last one. Even last year after the 1-6 I felt nervous going into the FA Cup 3rd round – which I was proved right on! A few years ago it used to be our only game of the season, but not only have we more games that have become important, we’ve played United a lot in the last few years – Carling Cup semi’s, FA Cup semi’s and the aforementioned FA Cup game. Around these games we’ve had the Owen last minute winner, the Rooney overhead kick, the “Why Always Me?” t-shirt and Kompany’s header – a lot of contrasting emotions, a lot of contrasting results; which sort of has you prepared for any outcome.
Dan: I have always been a nervous wreck ahead of derby day, even before City’s sugardaddy rolled into town. Back then we knew they’d do anything to stop us and win their “cup final”, while now they’re obviously our direct rivals for the title which only adds to the game’s significance. I’m a pessimistic by nature when it comes to United, particularly in big games, and I think the “underdogs” tag might even suit us. Underestimate us at your peril.
4) Come Sunday, you are in charge of picking the team – who is making your line up and why?
Liam: All depends on injuries, but you’d want your big name players to show up. Maicon and Nastasic have done well recently, but I’d like to see Zab and Lescott in there. Not sure if Milner will make it, but his and Silva’s work rate and movement were a big part of our victory last year at Old Trafford.
4-4-2: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Milner, Yaya, Barry, Silva; Tevez, Aguero
Dan: Unfortunately, with the recent injuries, our team picks itself. De Gea in goal for me. Our defensive record is poor but Rafael, Evans, Rio and Evra are our best bets – it’s been our most consistent combination this year and they are player who know what this game means to the fans. Midfield is the area that worries me because we can’t afford to be overrun as we did last season. If Cleverley is fit, I’d say him and Carrick with Fletcher (or, why not, Phil Jones) and Young. Scholes and Giggs can’t be expected to do the business in this kind of games. Not anymore. Lose the battle in midfield and we’ll lose the game, it’s as simple as that.
4-4-2: De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Cleverley, Carrick, Fletcher, Young; Rooney, Van Persie
5) Whatever happens Sunday, Monday morning will be interesting. What are the headlines going to read?
Cheers boys and enjoy the match…
Get on the comments below and let us know if the derby has changed for you. You can follow Liam on Twitter or check out his blog & Dan exists in the digital age also on Twitter, whilst he is a regular contributor for Manchester United blog Red Rants.
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