“We’re not really here” are some of the words emblazoned around the Etihad Stadium amongst other footnotes and references to Manchester City’s history. These particular words are significant because of a chant started by the Blue Moon faithful in the mid 1980’s. The story goes that the City fans travelled to Luton for a game, even though they were banned from the stadium, thus giving rise to the sarcastic nature of the chant above. The chant still rings out amongst the supporters to this very day and around 30 years on, the words of that old chant seem very applicable to the positions of both sides ahead of Monday’s Manchester derby.
City is challenging at the summit of the Premier League and have the opportunity to put a severe dent in their Manchester rivals title hopes. Perhaps more importantly, they have the chance to do so in front of their own fans, who have undergone decades of uncertainty and inconsistency at Maine Road and more recently the City of Manchester Stadium. Will they ever get a better chance to appease the thousands of supporters that have turned out diligently over the years?
Manchester United on the other hand will scarcely believe the position they find themselves in either. With an eight point lead secure merely two weeks ago after City’s defeat to Arsenal, they now find themselves under massive pressure to get a result after Everton’s late rally at Old Trafford last weekend. If City beat United on Monday, then Robert Mancini’s men will go back to the top of the Premier League on goal difference, with a mere two games left to play. Sir Alex Ferguson has always maintained that United look to win every game they go into. On Monday however it will simply be a case of “must not lose” as opposed to “must win”. Local derbies like this do not come round too often and whilst games of such magnitude can often fail to live up to the hype, there is no doubting the importance of the result and the effect it could potentially have on the destiny of both clubs.
Here’s the lowdown on both clubs, including the areas in which the game could be won and lost:
Likely Line Ups:
Manchester City (4-2-3-1):
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Yaya Toure, Barry, Nasri, Silva, Aguero, Tevez
Manchester United (4-4-2):
De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Valencia, Scholes, Carrick, Nani (doubtful due to injury), Rooney, Welbeck
Kompany vs Rooney:
Containing Wayne Rooney will be crucial to City’s aspirations of shutting out United and it will be City skipper Vincent Kompany who will be charged with that task. City have conceded less than a goal a game this season with the Belgian at the heart of their back four, whilst Rooney will be looking to add to 26 Premier League goals he has already bagged this season. Kompany has been one of the most consistent defenders around this campaign and his exceptional form could provide a fundamental foundation for City to go on and win the game on Monday.
Yaya Toure vs Scholes:
Since his move from Barcelona, Toure has been an intimidating prospect for opposing central midfielders. With exceptional pace, immense power and bags of quality, the Ivorian should provide more than a match for United’s Paul Scholes. And it will be interesting to see how the physical threat possessed by Toure will stand up to the majestic ball control and pinpoint passing Scholes possesses. It is no coincidence that United’s surge to the top of the table came about after Scholes’s return in January, and they will need another stand out performance from their legendary midfielder to control the midfield and tame the dynamic Toure.
Aguero vs Evans:
Two of the most common preconceptions about new signings include how difficult it can be to live up to a big price tag, as well as how it is difficult for foreign players to adapt to the harsh nature of the Premier League. Sergio Aguero however, has set the Premier League alight in his opening season, netting 22 times during the campaign. The £38m man has more than justified his heft price tag and faces Jonny Evans on Monday night who is one of the most improved players in the country this season. Evans has filled the void left by Nemanja Vidic and made the position his own ahead of more costly acquisitions Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. But he will have a tough task keeping the excellent Aguero quiet, who has displayed skill aplenty and lethal finishing during his City tenure so far.
Earlier meetings between the sides this season have both included plenty of goals. City trounced United 6-1 at Old Trafford earlier in the season but United gained a measure of revenge by knocking City out of the FA cup in January with a 3-2 victory at the Etihad.
8/1/2012: City 2-3 United (Rooney 20, 40, Welbeck 30, Kolarov 48, Aguero 65)
23/10/2011: United 1-6 City (Balotelli 22, 60 Aguero 69, Fletcher 81, Dzeko 90, 90 Silva, 90, Evans red card 47)
Although the two previous meetings this season have been open affairs, I expect this encounter will be alot tighter with what is potentially at stake for both teams. City has been imperious at the Etihad this season and whilst United has not performed to their best in recent weeks, they have the temperament and the ‘know how’ which could see them to a result in this game. For this reason I’d be putting my money on a low scoring draw, which would of course hand United the title initiative but would leave the race for the Premier League very much up for grabs.
Manchester City 1-1 Manchester United.
Post your prediction in the comments section below, and cast your vote regarding who you think will win this match.