Manchester United vs Manchester City
United fan and North Stand occupier, Rob Blanchette, ahead of the derby: “I’m hoping we turn them over – any win will do. Of course a draw would be perfectly acceptable, but to open up an eighteen point lead over them, well that will be the end of the title race. Saying that, I’m not feeling too confident about the game, as we look shattered, and they have improved, and Kompany is also back. But we are close to the finish line – thankfully the derby will not decide anything when it comes to silverware, as it did last season. But there is no reason why we can’t pull one big performance out the bag!”
United manager and North Stand name owner, Sir Alex Ferguson, ahead of the derby: “These are the games that everyone wants to be involved in… Over the last few years the derby games have been far more important than they ever were, so we’ve all been looking forward to them.”
A fifteen-point cushion should be enough to see an increasingly laboured-looking United clinch a remarkable 20th league title. With the side already knocked out of all cup competitions, Monday night’s derby could be the last truly meaningful fixture of the season. With that in mind, hopes will be to see a much-improved performance than those of recent weeks, including last Sunday’s disappointingly lacklustre FA Cup exit to Chelsea. What better way to rediscover some goalscoring (and exciting) form than with the visit of your city and Premier League title(ish) rivals?
However, as Rob points out, certain players do seem to be running on empty. As Rob also states, hopefully this side has (at least) on more big performance in them. If a fifteen-point lead is comfortable, a (potential) eighteen-point lead is fatal. While City fans (and Roberto Mancini) will argue that the title race is already over, a win at Old Trafford – and in the process cutting the gap at the top to twelve points – will sow seeds of hope in City minds and of doubt in United’s. A home win kills off all hope, all doubt, and all other nonsensical football-related emotions.
United should welcome back Wayne Rooney into the side. Missing against Sunderland and Chelsea, his inclusion could prove vital. Robin van Persie, who will start, saw his goalless streak stretch to 9 games after his “winner” at the Stadium of Light was credited to the hapless (cliché alert) Titus Bramble. With only two goals scored in the last two games, a return – in both presence and form – for both players would be very handy indeed.
Also back in training is Rafael, whose excellent performances this season leads to great hope he will be fit to play. As promising as Chris Smalling is, he far too limited a right-back to continually play there. (Quick side note: Smalling bought and shared a round of Jagerbombs with a few friends of mine last summer. Apparently “he loves it.”) With the game not until Monday night, Sir Alex will also hope to see Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic overcome niggles and be fit to play.
Otherwise, big question marks come over which, if any, of the ludicrously out-of-form-and/or-fitness wingers will be chosen to play. Contrast: last year at the Etihad we were fuming when Antonio Valencia was left out – this year we’ll be disappointed if he starts. Regardless, hope springs eternal that he still has one big game in him, and it could be Monday. You never know. The same, to a much-lesser extent, can also be said of Ashley Young and Nani, both still struggling for full-fitness and playing-rhythm after injury.
Less of a question mark(s) hangs over the inclusions of David de Gea, Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick, who will all start. Rio Ferdinand’s place in the starting line-up may depend on whether Evans and Vidic are fit, while Shinji Kagawa, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez are available and will hope to be involved. After impressing against Chelsea (one of the few), Welbeck probably most deserves to feature. So I’m obviously predicting that he doesn’t.
Predicted United line-up: De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Jones, Kagawa, Rooney, van Persie
Home record: P15 W14 D0 L1 F39 A15 Pts52
Home form: W W W W W W
Home record vs Manchester City: P81 W39 D26 L16 F137 A99
Manchester City supporter, Rob Pollard, ahead of the game: “Even after last season’s 6-1, which was a decent balm to cure my derby inflicted wounds, matches against United still fill me with dread. But this one feels slightly different. Let’s be honest, neither team has much riding on it other than pride. The league’s well and truly in the bag for United. A win for us would ease some of the frustrations of this season, and give us a boost going into our final games and the summer, but it’s nowhere near as important as some of the recent ones. I just hope we play with freedom. This time both sides can enjoy it and I expect a good game.”
Manager, Roberto Mancini, on the rest of the season: “It’s impossible we can win the title but it’s important that we finish the season well.”
They may all be saying it, but I’m convinced a win for City on Monday night will lead to one or two firmly believing a United collapse (monumental as it would be, even compared to last season) could be on the cards. The best way to end all that for good? A home win.
Manchester City are boosted by Yaya Toure’s signing of a new four-year contract this week. He will start in midfield, along with top assist provider this season, David Silva. Should Roberto Mancini stick with the side which so comprehensively brushed aside Newcastle last week, Carlos Tevez will partner top scorer Edin Dzeko up front, with Sergio Aguero likely to feature off the bench. Club captain Vincent Kompany, a few games into his own injury recovery, will take his place at the centre of their defence. Expect to see James Milner, usually picked to play in these big games, to start of the right of midfield.
On the injury front, City will be without right-backs Maicon and Micah Richards, as well as the perennially injured Jack Rodwell. Matija Nastasic should be available having missed the Newcastle victory through injury. Otherwise, their squad is in rude health.
Predicted City line-up: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastastic, Clichy, Barry, Milner, Toure, Silva, Dzeko, Tevez
Away record: P15 W7 D5 L3 F20 A15 Pts26
Away form: W W D L W L
Recent meetings at Old Trafford
United 1-6 City (23-10-11), United 2-1 City (12-02-11), United 3-1 City (27-01-10), United 4-3 City (20-09-09), United 2-0 City (10-05-09)
Mike Dean. The 44-year-old official has taken charge of 20 Premier League matches this term, brandishing 72 yellows cards and 3 reds, awarding 4 penalties. He was last seen by United fans during Boxing Day’s 4-3 home win over Newcastle.
Goals: (United) 70 – (City) 55
Conceded: 31 – 26
Top scorer: Robin van Persie (19) – Edin Dzeko (12)
Assists: Wayne Rooney (9) – Carlos Tevez, David Silva (7)
Most shots: Robin van Persie (110) – Carlos Tevez (85)
Most appearances: Robin van Persie (27/3) – Joe Hart (30)
Completed passes: Michael Carrick (1904) – Yaya Toure (1747)
Disciplinary: 44 yellows, 0 reds – 48 yellows, 3 reds
Average possession: 56.7% – 58.2%
Pass success rate: 85.8% – 84.9%
Watch my video entitled ’20’ below:
United have won 12 home matches on the spin. City have lost 2 of the last 3 on the road.
Wayne Rooney has scored 10 goals for United vs their city rivals – more than any player in club history.
City have won only 2 of 15 Premier League matches at Old Trafford, keeping a solitary clean sheet.
United and City are 2 of 3 teams yet to lose in the Premier League this season when they have taken the lead (Arsenal the other).
United have been winning at both half-time and full-time in the last 6 Premier League matches at Old Trafford.
Joe Hart is Manchester City’s only ever-present in the league this season.
City have kept the most clean sheets in the league this season (14). United are on a run of 6 consecutive league games without conceding.
Score prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City