Derby Day

by Neil Sherwin

The Manchester Derby takes place tomorrow and BackPageFootball writers Neil Sherwin and Ed Diggins preview the big game.

Representing the blue half of Manchester, Neil Sherwin rates his side’s chances of beating their bitter rivals.

The derby is always a massive, massive game but for years I dreaded it as it represented yet another chance for United fans to rub in just how superior they were. In recent years however this has changed and our record against that lot is actually quite good.

For once we are very much the form team going into this one, but that of course goes right out the window in games like this. United have to win this game, especially as they play before Chelsea and want to put the pressure on.

We have our own agenda of course and currently lead the way in the race for the final Chmpions League spot. A slip up will hand the initiative back to Spurs and I certainly do not want to finish behind Harry Redknapp come the end of the season.

Our front four of Tevez, Adebayor, Bellamy and Johnson have been unstoppable lately so hopefully Mancini won’t do too much tinkering. Wayne Bridge is due back so should slot in a left back and I would like to see Nigel De Jong and Gareth Barry retained in midfield.

It looks like Wayne Rooney will be involved which is obviously a blow to us, but one little tap on the ankle early on should keep him quiet. Vincent Kompany has been a rock at the back lately alongside Kolo Toure and Nedum Onouha has slotted in nicely at right back.

Prediction

Normally I am the most pessimistic person when we play United and would be chuffed with a point. However tomorrow I can think we can get all three. I’m going for a 2-1 City win with King Carlos and Bellers getting our goals and Valencia nicking one for them.

A win would boost our chances of claiming that all important fourth spot while also putting a massive dent in United’s title aspirations.

In the red corner, Ed Diggins looks ahead from a United perspective.

This is a huge game, perhaps the biggest in many years in Manchester. In fact, I cannot think of one bigger in the past 30 years all things considered,  above the normal bragging rights. Both team have massive ambitions. City hold a slender advantage for fourth, but they know that one slip up could cost them. Likewise, this is United’s last chance saloon in the title. Unless Chelsea suffer defeats later on in the day at Spurs and at Anfield next week, anything other than three points here, is the title for Russians.

A win for United blows the title race wide open, as I expect Spurs to at least get a point off Chelsea. It would also lift their sprits knowing a win in the late kick off, puts them clear in fourth.

I have been lucky enough to have been at three United v City clashes in the past year and they were all magnificent occasions. What is at stake in this one will put this game into overdrive. The tension around the city will reach unparallel levels tomorrow and I expect some trouble inside and outside the ground, no matter how big the police presence is. Expect fireworks on the pitch too with several bookings and possibly even a red card.

City have been in a rich scoring vein recently, knocking in 11 goals in 2 games against Burnley and Birmingham. They have their defensive frailties and United will look to exploit this and hit them on the counter, something that City have adapted to great effect at times this year also. The game however will be won and lost in midfield and I expect another massive game from Darran Fletcher.

Prediction

Hmm, this is difficult to call. How fit Rooney is will decide the game, I expect United to play 4-2-2-1-1 formation with Park supporting Rooney in front of Fletcher and Carrick with Valencia and Nani manning the flanks.  City will no doubt go all out early and if United hold firm, I think they will get there in the end. I hope that, for once this season in a big game, United get a fair break of the officials and the best team wins.

I am going for a tense, tight first half with United shading it 2-0 in the second half.

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