Preview: City v United

The most important Derby since Dennis Law used the back of his boot to send his beloved United down in '74, allegedly. For the first time in God knows how long we've actually got something to play for at the top of the table (or there abouts!) post-Easter. The day-trippers are preparing their butties, the Snot & Custard scarved ones are on their way to Manchester.

A number of faces return for City ahead of the most important derby in donkey's years. Pablo Zabaleta has served his two-match suspension, Wayne Bridge could make his first appearance in a month after groin surgery, Pat Vieira's rest sees him back in the squad, and Stevie Ireland has recovered from an ankle knock. Sylvinho is rated 50/50. Lescott, Petrov and Michael Johnson are unlikely to play again this season.

As for the dark side, well, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand will both be rushed back from well-documented ankle and groin injuries, respectively, as their title hopes enter the Last Chance Saloon. Ryan Giggs is thought to be unlikely to start, and Wesley Brown, Anderson and young, canny buy of the summer and twenty goal cert Micky Bowen are all absent.

Having bagged eleven goals in our last two games 'keep as is' would be the most obvious plan, but i think Berto will make changes. Ned Onuoha hasn't put a foot wrong in recent weeks, but Pablo Zabaleta is one of Mancini's most-trusted troops, and he could come back in. Also, Pat Vieira may well earn a recall to counter the possibility of a five-man United midfield. If so, Adam Johnson would be the most obvious to lose out, though he's been in scintillating form, but it's hard to second-guess the manager's team selections. Wayne Bridge should come in for Javi Garrido.

Dimitar Berbatov was in typically sulky mood at Ewood last weekend, a game in which United started well but badly faded out of. Fergie could choose to stick with him, and Derby Day can make a hero out of these unfashionable sorts, but i've a feeling Park will come in somewhere, possibly behind Rooney. John O'Shea is surely United's best bet against Bellamy, Evra and Fletcher will return, and i fancy Alligs may opt for the Ginger Prince over Michael Carrick.

It's odd going into a Derby with everything going so right for us and so wrong for them. Our eleven on paper is now at least as strong as whichever one they could muster, and there are so many people tipping us to win that the whole thing feels a little uneasy. They're shot, we're looking like Barcelona, it's all too good to be true, isn't it? A moribund humbling surely awaits, does it not? Fuck that.

You can't really look beyond their latest Madrid-bound talisman as their main danger. Almost a goal a game this season says it all, and whilst they have struggled to replace the goals of Ronaldo and Tevez no-one can doubt that Rooney will be a worthy winner of Player of the Year. From an England point of view it's been a pleasure to see him mature from young talent to a member of the truly world class elite, and i'm sure he could do it in any major league in the world, and we'll get the chance to see either way on that one.

United, though, should never, ever be written off and are often at their best when wounded. I don't really buy into the "couldn't be playing them at a better time" malarkey. They have to win, HAVE to. You could argue we do, too, but our position is slightly more comfortable for our relative target. The worry is an over-confidence on our part. I guess it's up to the manager to have the lads in the right frame of mind, to not have their eyes further than the next result.

Luis Valencia has had a splendid first season at Old Trafford, from what i've seen. I like him. He's direct, as good wingers often are, he's got pace, strength, a good footballing brain and his delivery is decent. During the League Cup win, a game in which i thought we rode our luck in, he was the main danger. We, or more Javi Garrido, struggled to cope with high crossfield passes to the right and their attacking threat came almost exclusively from the Ecuadorian. Aside from their top scorer i see him as the main danger.

No-one can really call a Derby, but if we play to our capacities i think we'll have enough. In recent years we've rarely been in the position of the result meaning more than just bragging rights, United are seasoned at winning when it matters, but their side is lacking spark and at home we shouldn't fear anybody, seven points from nine against the other members of the so-called 'Big Four' bears that out. G'wan lads!

Possible teams:
City: Given, Zabaleta, Bridge, Toure, Kompany, de Jong, Vieira, Barry, Tevez, Adebayor, Bellamy

United: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Fletcher, Valencia, Scholes, Park, Rooney, Nani

Prediction: Us 3 Them Lot 1

1 comment:

  1. G'wan lads indeed!!!

    Let's not lose sight of why we need to win though- it's not 'cos they need to lose, it's so we can move on to phase 2 (or 3 or 4 depending on how you look at it) of what "the richest club in the world" (what an embarrasing superlative) is aiming to do.

    Bellamy will be the key tomorrow for me; if he keeps his head, we can keep them at bay all afternoon worrying about him getting round the back. 3 points is the prize but if the worst comes to the worst, we're still in with a shout with 4 games to go.

    We've had the dress rehearsals (but ended up with an "extras" role rather than centre stage) aplenty this year, so now's the chance to stamp some "Manc" on preceedings.

    Let's 'av it Blues.