with the answer to this question: which is the most underrated rivalry in
Manchester City 0-0 Manchester United (kick-off 13:30)
12.55 Henry Winter is in place at the Etihad, and he begins by reading
Twitter: Henry Winter - Mancini in good neighbourly mood, welcoming #mufc 'a great team' & Ferguson 'the most successful manager in the history of British football'
12.50 Lots will be made of Tevez getting 'dropped', or possibly even
'snubbed', by Roberto Mancini. Balotelli's inclusion is something of a
surprise, not to say a gamble, but he's got pedigree in big games, not least
the 6-1 last season. Besides, when you've got four strikers as good as
Manchester City do, it's no more a 'snub' to Tevez than ordering beef
carpaccio in a restaurant constitutes a 'snub' to the prawn cocktail.
12.40 Team news. Balotelli starts. Tevez doesn't. No Vidic for
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic,
Clichy; Yaya Toure, Barry; Silva, Aguero, Nasri; Balotelli.
Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Maicon, Kolo Toure, Garcia, Tevez, Dzeko.
Manchester United (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra;
Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Young; Rooney; Van Persie.
Subs: Johnstone, Jones, Smalling, Giggs, Scholes, Hernandez, Welbeck.
12.30 It's a glorious sunny afternoon in Manchester, the perfect
setting for the fiercest rivalry in English football, and certainly the
biggest match of the season so far.
Can you spot the little white lie in that sentence?
In fact, there are three of them. That whole sentence is a seething nest of
lies, a poisonous cocktail of mendacity. The biggest match of the season so
far, strictly speaking, was probably El Clasico back in October. The
fiercest rivalry in English football is probably a toss-up between West Ham
v Millwall and West Brom v Wolves (if you've never been to one, you're going
to have to trust me on this). And it's currently overcast in Manchester with
a bit of drizzle. I mean, it's Manchester.
It's quite easy to get caught up in the furious meta-narrative of matches such
as these, the hyper-significance of it all, an approach best described as
the 'Five-Things-We-Learned' school. (Note, by the way, that things can only
be learned in multiples of five.) Instead, can we all agree on the following
as a sort of credo?
1) The Premier League title will not be decided today.
2) Both Manchester City and Manchester United will remain, regardless
of the result today, very good football teams.
3) This game on its own will tell us little or nothing about any of the
following things: the state of the modern game; when Alex Ferguson is going
to retire; whether England will win the next World Cup; or whether football
has, in fact, been ripped fully-formed out of the motherly arms of the
working-class and dropped into the lap of the bourgeoisie.
4) None of the above actually makes this match any less worthy of our
time and attention. It is, after all, a football match, and we quite like
With the terms of the encounter thus framed, let us begin.
Our own big two have had their say on United and City:
Whatever happens when the neighbours and rivals storm into each other this
afternoon, United will be back again and again. It’s in their nature. When
it comes to silverware, Ferguson’s men are hunters and gatherers, writes
The end of that 44-year wait earned Mancini a new five-year contract,
almost by default. But the consequence of City’s tame Champions League
surrender is that he is now left needing to retain the Premier League title
to be able to say the club are still progressing under his leadership, says
And a reminder, as if you needed it, of the two matches between these sides
Here's a little preview.
Considering that last season's fixture at the Etihad Stadium was the 'biggest
ever Manchester derby,' and City's 6-1 win at Old Trafford last October was
arguably the most significant for half a century, Sunday's first meeting of
the Premier League's top two has plenty to live up to.
City are finding it difficult to score, while United cannot keep the ball out
of their own, but as the old cliché often reminds us, form goes out of the
window on these occasions.
So expect fireworks. Insert Balotelli joke.
Betting: Home 5-4, Away, 15-8 Draw 5-2.
Stats of the game: As it stands, United lead the Premier League with 36
points from 15 games, three more than City – and 10 more than third-placed
Chelsea in what is turning into a two-horse race.
At this stage last season it was the same top four – Spurs are fourth as they
were then – but the only difference was that, after 15 games in 2001, City
were top with 38 points, two more than United.
Interestingly, after 15 games last season, City had scored 49 goals and
conceded 15. Now they have just 28 but have conceded 11. United, by
contrast, had 35 goals then with 14 conceded.
Twelve months on and United have 37 goals – but they have also let in 21.
United have the upper hand at City in the Premier League with eight wins and
two draws from 15 visits.
And the last six clashes have seen no more than one goal in the game, with
United winning 1-0 three times, City winning by the same score twice and one
Mark Ogden’s prediction: Manchester City 1 Manchester United 1
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