In what is one of the most widely viewed games from around the world, the famous Manchester derby is about to kick off as the so called ‘richest club in the world’ (various media, 2008/2009) and ‘ the best team in the world’ (Shrek, 2009) lock horns for the second time this season.
With more than just pride to play for, this derby could help determine both the outcome of the Premier League title and of seventh place.
Manchester City go into this game on the back of four consecutive wins in all competitions, including an impressive away victory over Everton.
Manchester United also have reason to be confident after a 4-1 win on aggregate against Premier League rivals and Champions League opponents Arsenal puts them into the Champions League final against Barcelona.
The game presents United with a chance to avenge City’s double over them last season, the first time since April 1974 that City had beaten United in the league at Old Trafford and the first time they had won both league derby games since the 1969-70 season.
The derby has been one of the passionate battles in football history with an abundance of heavy tackles, yellow cards and numerous red cards shown to either side – Cristiano Ronaldo being the most recent player to be sent off.
Memorable occasions in the history of the derby includes the likes of ‘the day Denis Law back-heeled United into the Second Division’ and the less favourably remembered Roy Keane / Alf-Inge Haaland feud which resulted in Keane maliciously breaking Haaland’s leg.
Much has been said ahead of this titanic battle but nothing can really put into words the feeling of being involved is such a massive game between two adverse vivals.
Manchester City manager Mark Hughes said ahead of the derby at Old Trafford: ‘Irrespective of who we are up against on the pitch on Sunday, it’s about us being positive.
‘We are going there in good heart and with confidence. We have won our last four games and you have to go to Old Trafford in the belief you can get something out of it. We are in good shape.
‘I was looking with interest in regard to who wasn’t playing as much as who was. You look at the bench and they’ve still got great quality they can call upon.
‘You have to go with a belief that you can perform well as a team. I certainly don’t see that being a problem at the weekend because we are playing with confidence in every game.
‘The confidence comes from winning and knowing you can stand up to the challenge. We are at that point.’
‘It’s a big game and one we need to get something out of, if we pick up points from our last three matches we’ll go close.’
Nigel De Jong gave his perspective one of the most watched games around the globe, stating: ‘For me this is one of the biggest derbies in the world, I have been aware of it since I was a kid and now I am part of it, I understand how special it is to the supporters and local people in Manchester – most of who are Blues!
‘We won there for the first time in a long time last year and lightning does strike twice. I watched last season`s match on television and know what a huge impact it had in Manchester, so it would be nice to repeat that.
‘We have been playing well recently but we will have to step up our game another notch at Old Trafford on Sunday. We both need to win the game for different reasons and it should be a great contest.
‘The atmosphere in the stadium will be intense and that is the way you should like it as a professional, it should help bring the best out of everyone.
‘It is one of the things I have noticed most about the Premier League, it doesn`t matter whether you go to the top side or the one in 18th, 19th or 20th position the passion and fervour is always there.
‘It was the same in Germany with Hamburg as City fans know from trips there and to Schalke. It makes you want to perform and try to show the fans in the stadium and the watching world what you are capable of. Old Trafford has to be one of the ultimate stages on which to perform and one of the most satisfying to come away from with a win.
‘It would be great to put one over too on my international colleague Edwin Van der Sar. I’m sure there will be a bit of banter in the days leading up to the game.’
De Jong’s partner in midfield, Vincent Kompany added: ‘Thanks to our four wins in a row, you couldn’t build any more confidence ahead of a big game like the derby.
‘We have proved we are a good side. We have been well organised, got forward quickly and scored goals.
‘I hope we can win our last three games but hopefully six or seven points will be enough to claim seventh place.’
‘I’ve never played at Old Trafford, I’ve never even been there. But I have grown into these colours and into the club tradition, and I feel I am a Citizen.
‘We want to win, and in a derby there is never a favourite. Anything can happen, as was proved last year. Our motivation will be high, not just because it’s United but because we are determined to get the seventh place.
‘I cannot imagine that any of our players will not have the hunger, and United must realise that the derby is going to get tougher in coming years. There are some big derbies coming up.
‘United will be tough opponents. At the moment it’s just one game that can get us closer to seventh place, it’s not going to make us champions. So let’s talk about things next year and see what happens then.’
Manchester United striker and Shrek look-a-like Wayne Rooney added his pennies worth, stating: ‘We know we are the best team in the world are at the minute. It is there for them to see.
‘Sunday is just one game of football and you cannot read too much into it.
‘But it still hurts that they did the double over us last season, so we will be looking to do the same to them, having won at Eastlands.’
Rio Ferdinand added: ‘We have to keep performing. It will be a tough against City. They have won their last couple of matches and are on a bit of a roll, so they will feel they can come and do a job on us. It is up to us to make sure it doesn’t happen.’
Manchester United FC Team News:
Wes Brown is out for the season while aging Manchester defender Gary Neville has been included in the Manchester United squad after recovering from a month long foot injury.
Dimitar Berbatov, Carlos Tevez, and Paul Scholes are hoping to be recalled to the starting line-up following their ommition from United’s previous game.
Player to watch: Wayne Rooney
There is no denying that Rooney has hit some form and his bustling runs will be hard to track for our pourous defense.
It will be a difficult day for the boys in blue, although considering how close the game came last time- without our supurb January additions- it will certainly be interesting to see how Rooney will fair against the likes of Kompany and De Jong.
Manchester City FC Team News:
Welsh hot-head Craig Bellamy misses this game due to a long term injury although Mark Hughes will be boosted by the return of Argentinian Olympic gold medal winner Pablo Zabaleta and diminutive Manchester City talisman Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Zabaleta could regain his place at right-back ahead of Micah Richards, although Wright-Phillips is expected to start on the bench – kept out of the side by the excellent Elano.
Player to watch: Robinho
The mercurial Brazilian will be closely marked and is likely to be crowded out for large parts of the game, however, that is not to say that he will not have his his moments to shine.
Robinho will no doubt cause the lumbering United backline some problems with his immense speed on the ball and could certainly catch Ferdinand flat-footed a few times.
If the sun is shining down on Manchester, expect some samba- certainly not the Blackburn player…
Match Facts & Stats
As of 30 November 2008, there has been a total of 150 competitive meetings between the teams. United have won 60 and City 41, the remaining 49 games finishing as draws. The biggest victory was 6-1 to City on 23 January 1926.
City won both the last derby match at Maine Road and the first derby match at their new stadium, the City of Manchester Stadium.
Manchester United are chasing a sixth successive league win while Manchester City are chasing their fourth.
Manchester United stalwart Ryan Giggs has played in a total of 28 derby games, more than any other player to play for either United or City.
United keeper Edwin Van Der Sar is at the head of the pack for the Barclays Golden Glove with 19 clean sheets to his name.
Last season’s epic 1-2 victory was Manchester City’s first win in 24 league contests at Old Trafford since the famous Denis Law back-heel relegated his former club United into the lower echelons of the second division in a 0-1 win on 27th April 1974.
Chris Foy officates this hotly contested Manchester Derby. The referee from St Helens has overseen 22 games this season and has shown a total of 78 yellow cards and two reds.
This will be a massive test for Mark Hughes and his revitalised Manchester City team. United are at the top of their game and are well on track for another title. This being said, we are Manchester City- possibly the most unpredictable and exciting team to follow. Anything is possible. I think that if the sun is shining down then Elano, Robinho and Ireland could pose United with some serious problems and could possibly throw a spanner in the works leaving the title race wide open. It will no doubt be a passionate game and possibly one in which Craig Bellamy would have been perfect for. Unfortunately we lack a forward with such stamina, although Felipe Caicedo’s unorthodox approach could pull defenders out of position leaving gaps to exploit. I couldn’t predict this any other way: MUFC 1-3 MCFC.
Away to Tottenham on Saturday 16th May 2009 at 3pm.