- Payback – August 7 2011 must still loom large in Manchester City’s head when things took a turn for the worse after the first half of the Community Shield. Manchester City held a commanding 2-0 lead but goals by Smalling and Nani hurt, while the third one hurt even more with Vincent Kompany letting Nani go unchallenged for the winner. Although some say that the Community Shield is a ‘meaningless game’ it definitely was a preview for this upcoming matchup. And really if you want to make brass tacks out of it, there will be at least 3 times they face each other this season and someone is going to want bragging rights to all three of those games.
- David de Gea – How much has he grown since that game? We now get to find out as this will be his second toughest challenge when you include last week’s game against Liverpool. He performed admirably well last week getting at least three huge saves against an aggressive Liverpool side and I think with the exception of Giggs’ incorrect shifting, de Gea probably could have gotten a clean sheet. If picked for the game, it will be the game he will in which he either steps up or steps back down. Also, how ‘bout that Manchester United defense? If Vidic and Ferdinand falter, can Sir Alex depend on Jones, Smalling and Cleverley to pick up the pieces and save them again?
- Mario Balotelli – Has anyone heard the latest news on Balotelli? Did he punch someone? No. Did he say disparaging words about his boss Mancini? No. Is he refusing to play? No. He is planning the team’s Christmas party. Yes. With all that drama surrounding Tevez, Balotelli has laid low and gone to work. With three goals in the last three games he seems to be working very hard to get back into the good graces with Mancini, so I wouldn’t rule him out as a factor for Sunday’s match especially when he matches up with Nemanja Vidic. But at least he is not being another distraction.
- The Tevez Effect – Speaking of distractions, I don’t think the Carlos Tevez’ drama is having the effect that some naysayers thought that it would with Manchester City. That’s probably why they are on top of the table at present because of their refusal of letting one rotten egg keep them from winning and as long as Manchester City continues this run of form, then Manchester United may have a legitimate threat to not only winning on Sunday, but winning it all this season. However, it could all backfire as Manchester United fans unite in their hate for Tevez via chants and song.
- Home Advantage – Last year’s clash was decided by Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford. Also Manchester have yet to lose this season and more importantly at home. I think the last thing Sir Alex wants to see Sunday is a loss — a loss at home and more importantly, a loss at home to a rival. One thing is certain, Sir Alex will learn from the mistake he made last week and will have his best players start. Rooney will be there for certain to ensure that the Red Devils don’t get off to the same start they had back in August so they don’t have to play from behind again.
My prediction: a 2-2 draw with the Red Devils striking first.