The first Manchester Derby of the 2010/11 Barclays Premier League season takes center stage as United take the short trip to the City of Manchester Stadium to take on their local-rival, City.
From March 1, 1976 until August 31, 2008, a lot of casual football fans living outside of Manchester did not realize that there were two clubs that were competing for honors, but with all the noise from the money the Citizens have splashed, it is unavoidable that they will start making waves.
With over £200 million spent in the last two-plus years, City is doing their absolute best in their attempts to try dethrone United domestically, which should rekindle this into one of the feistiest derbies in England.
Now throw in the fact that that the Citizens could very well be in for Wayne Rooney, this derby will certainly have the fireworks off the field, but let’s hope that the performances of both sets of players will imitate the emotions of the supporters.
United has extended their unbeaten streak to an impressive 24 matches by winning their last, and the Reds remain the only team without a tick in loss column, which has enabled them to unexpectedly creep into second place in the Premier League standings just TWO points behind Chelsea.
Both of their results from the weekend will give both United and City the confidence ahead of the match, which should make it a feast for all football fans far and wide.
It was not a vintage United performance by any stretch of the imagination, but the players showed their true character and real resolve by scoring a very dramatic 2-1 victory over Wolverhampton at Old Trafford.
Primarily because of the illness going through the team, it was a very down performance by United, but the majority of plaudits need to be given to the Ji-Sung Park, because it was his two injury-time goals – one in each half – that proved to be the difference between the two teams.
City traveled to the Hawthorns and came away with all three points following their 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion – who took two points off United at Old Trafford just three weeks ago.
City used two goals in six minutes from Mario Balotelli, who is suspended for the derby following boot-in-the-face challenge on Youssouf Mulumbu, to secure their first victory in their last four matches.
Despite suffering from a moderate dip in form, City are still in fourth place in the Premier League on 20 points – just three points off the pace of United for second.
To overtake United, though, City would need to not only win the match, but outscore them by three or more goals, which has not happened to the Reds since their 3-0 loss to Fulham on December 19.
Although City has spent ungodly amounts of money to increase their strike force, Roberto Mancini’s men have only score 15 goals in 11 games, which is a far shout from United 24 goals.
Their highly-paid strikers have succumbed to being shutout three times in the league, and have only scored more than one goal five times.
Former United fan-favorite, Carlos Tevez, is their leading scorer with seven goals, which is 46% of the goals in the Premier League, and Balotelli’s two goals against Albion on Sunday make him City’s only other player with more than a goal to their name.
On the other hand, City’s defense has only conceded 10 goals on the season, which is tied with Everton for second in the Premier League – three fewer than United’s.
Mancini, who took over City nearly 11 months ago, has been under some intense scrutiny lately with some pundits and supporters calling him to resign.
If he did resign, which he has claimed that he won’t, it would set the Citizens back another year or so, because he has brought in a few top players to suit his playing style.
Jerome Boateng (Hamburg SV), Yaya Touré (Barcelona), David Silva (Valencia) and Aleksandar Kolarov (Lazio) and James Milner (Aston Villa) were his five big summer signings, which tabled to an excess of £100 million.
Former Arsenal talisman, Patrick Viera, joined up with Mancini again last January following their time at Inter Milan, but he has not enjoyed a very good time at the Eastlands.
City’s biggest-ever signing, Robinho, became the first one of their over-paid players to stop looking in the clown mirror that the Abu Dhabi United Group instilled in the home locker room, and begged for a move to AC Milan.
Ryan Giggs, who is suffering from a hamstring injury, would be making his 34th appearance in the Manchester Derby – a match he has never missed in his 21-year career with United – if he is deemed fit by Sir Alex.
Another player that the United supporters will be hopeful to make the match is Nani, but the winger suffered a slight groin injury last week against Bursaspor, so he will be more than likely a game-time decision.
A virus ripped through United’s squad leaving Ferguson with very few options for the Wolverhampton match, but some of those players should be recovered enough to take part against City.
Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick, Darron Gibson, Rafael all missed this past weekend’s win, but hopefully all of them will pass fit for the derby.
Manchester United’s good form will be for nothing if they do not get a positive result from this derby match with Manchester City, so expect Sir Alex Ferguson to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them.
Out: A. Valencia (leg), W. Rooney (ankle), O. Hargreaves (knee), M. Owen (hamstring); Doubtful: R. Giggs (hamstring), Anderson (knee), Nani (groin)
E. van der Sar; Rafael, R. Ferdinand, N. Vidic, P. Evra; P. Scholes, M. Carrick, D. Fletcher, J. S. Park, Nani; D. Berbatov
Manchester City 1 Manchester United 2