MANCHESTER DERBY PREVIEW: MANAGER DEBUTS ADD NEW DIMENSION
Manuel Pellegrini and David Moyes take the reins for their first Manchester derbies tomorrow afternoon to add yet another spark to the already tempestuous rivalry that has developed over the past few seasons. Manchester really is the place to be in domestic English football at the moment with league titles and FA Cups heading there more often than not in the past four or five seasons. It is now up to these two men to carry forward the mantles established by predecessors Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson – and nothing will start this off better than a morale-boosting local derby victory.
Both sides have had mixed starts to their seasons so far and both sit on 7 points in the Europa League places at this moment in time. City suffered a defeat away at new boys Cardiff whilst United succumbed to a loss away at their other bitter rivals Liverpool, with a draw apiece accompanying two other victories. However, two excellent European triumphs in the Champions League in midweek, in which both attacks fired strongly, sets Sunday’s clash up that little bit better. Everyone will be confident as the forwards are red hot and defences in good shape: the Etihad will be rocking, and 90 gripping minutes of football will surely ensue.
So who will come out on top? And where will the key battles be fought?
United have two frail spots for City to exploit. Firstly – the weaker links in the backline. If the likes of Navas, Aguero and Toure are able to isolate Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra in the channels one-on-one, particularly with long balls aerially, they will be well placed to have success in behind to threaten David de Gea’s goal. Secondly – the much maligned United midfield. Of course, the presence of the forceful Marouane Fellaini adds a new dimension since his signing from Everton alongside the evergreen and much depended-upon Michael Carrick: but will that be enough to halt Yaya Toure’s trademark surging runs through the middle that have been known to decimate sides in the past? Only time will tell.
As for United’s best hopes? To minimise the defensive isolation and play to their strengths. Namely, wing play and counter attacking. In Antonio Valencia they seem to have a man revitalised after a sensational mid-week performance against Bayer Leverkusen. If Nani happens to be fully fit, he should play on the other side in place of the recently inept Ashley Young, but Young does offer better defensive protection so it is easy to see a case for his inclusion – especially considering Nani’s last action was back in the second week of August in United’s pre-season. Of course, in Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, they have two electrifying forwards who have both shown glimpses of their best form in recent weeks and who will give the City defence some serious trouble.
These four players (Valencia, Young/Nani, Rooney, van Persie) will be the architects of the United counter and the weighting of the result may depend upon how quickly City can get players back to cope with their flooding forward. United can be devastating in this phase of play as was proven with Valencia’s goal against Leverkusen in midweek and their sharpness will be crucial in order to obtain a positive result once again.
As mentioned, both sides had European excursions in the week and so both managers played largely full strength sides, keen to get off to the best possible start. With next to no known injuries obtained, it is thought both teams will be mostly unchanged. Shinji Kagawa is likely to drop to the bench for United after his first start all season, whilst an excellent display at right back by Chris Smalling means he is likely to keep his place in the back four, even though it is not his favoured nor strongest position. As for City, Gael Clichy is the only absentee because of a hamstring strain and Aleksandr Kolarov will continue to deputise in his absence. Vincent Kompany made a comeback from injury against Victoria Plzen and it is also anticipated he will be fit enough to start.
The probable line-ups, then, are as follows:
City (4-4-2) Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastastic, Kolarov; Milner, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, Navas; Aguero, Dzeko.
United (4-2-3-1) de Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fellaini; Valencia, Rooney, Young; van Persie.
Ref: Howard Webb
It all makes for a fascinating Super Sunday tea-time kick off and compelling viewing for any football fan. Howard Webb’s appointment as the man in the middle is the sensible one considering tempers and passions are likely to be near their boiling points on both sides of the touchline. Come the final whistle, neither Moyes nor Pellegrini will complain about a point but fans will be desperate for three points and inter-city bragging rights, if only until the next time. The blue side of Manchester probably starts as slight favorites what with home advantage and having not conceded a goal at home all season.
However, the smart money is probably on a share of the spoils. With all the attacking talent on display, there will surely be a goal or two, so a safe bet is on a 1-1 or 2-2. And in all likelihood, that would allow both managers a more peaceful night’s sleep after their first ever Mancunian derby. Safe to say they will not have seen anything like it before.
Blast from the past: