The title may realistically be no longer up for grabs, but Monday night’s Manchester derby is still one of the most anticipated clashes of the season.
Manchester United welcome Manchester City to Old Trafford, with the visitors trailing leaders by 15 points with eight games left to play. United beat City 3-2 back in December following a last gasp Robin Van Persie freekick, and have only dropped four points since. Manchester City have lost on their travels away at Southampton and Everton – but will be hoping to halt United’s assault on capturing a twentieth league title. It’s a curious case of a clash featuring champions against champions-elect, but one thing is for sure its all about bragging rights this time around with United looking to do the double over their ‘noisy neighbors’ and City hoping to recapture last season’s Old-Trafford romp over their more-successful neighbors.
Manchester City will be playing for pride as much as anything else. At the end of the day, they are still the reigning Premier League champions and Roberto Mancini and co. will want to show the doubters that they are still very much the force to contend with. City certainly proved they are capable of beating United last season, and while the title race will have an anti-climatic end this year compared to the last, there is still that needle between the sides that suggests this game will be extremely competitive. Depending on if whether you’re a red or a blue – both sets of fans feel their side has a point to prove in the derby on Monday evening. United lost both fixtures to City last term. A humiliating 6-1 defeat at home and a limp and disastrous performance in the away fixture, when Vincent Kompany beat Chris Smalling in the air to hand City the initiative in the title run in. Not to of course mention the dramatic finish to last season’s championship run in. In a way its United’s turn for redemption this time and Sir Alex Ferguson will be marshalling his resources according to it.
Wayne Rooney will look forward to returning to action in the biggest game of the season so far and he will have one eye on the record for scoring most derby goals. Currently he is on 10 goals and will be looking to add to his fine collection. Brazilian right-back Rafael will too earn a re-call like Rooney and United fans might be hoping for similar performance to the one he had at Etihad in December, when he assisted Rooney’s second goal. Captain Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans remain doubtful and Chris Smalling might line-up alongside Rio Ferdinand but don’t be surprised if Vidic is in the match squad because Alex Ferguson will be looking for more physical presence to contain the likes of Kompany and Toure from set pieces. Robin Van Persie might be going through a dry spell at the moment but this is exactly the game he will be looking forward and to prove that he was correct to his summer ambitions. The only conundrum is that of the United midfield where Alex Ferguson has preferred various partners alongside the ever-consistent Michael Carrick. Tom Cleverly might be preferred but you can’t deny the chances of Phil Jones playing a significant role as he will be more fresh than Cleverly due to his latest injury –rehab.
Match Squad: David De Gea (Gk), Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia, Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie
Micah Richards and Maicon are definite non-starters for City while Jack Rodwell could be ready for action again. David Silva and Samir Nasri are likely to be fully fit and will likely line up in a City attack desperate to win but you might feel Mancini might prefer workhorse James Milner over the Frenchman. Captain Vincent Kompany will look to guard his troops against the best attack in the Premier League and he will also remember his goal at the Etihad last April just to lift his side’s spirits. David Silva and Yaya Toure are the two players crucial for City and Mancini will be expecting the same performance from Silva when he destroyed United’s defence in the 6-1 romp at Old Trafford last season. Buoyed by a new 4-year contract, Yaya Toure will be the man United’s midfield will look to contain. Former-red Carlos Tevez will relish the challenge amid a ray of sarcastic appreciation by the home crowd and will love to get one over his former employers.
Match Squad: Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Matija Nastasic, Gael Clichy, Gareth Barry, Yaya Toure, James Milner, Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Sergio Aguero
Manchester United (W25 D2) and Manchester City (W18 D2) are two of the three teams yet to lose in the Barclays’ Premier League this season when they have taken the lead (Arsenal are the other)
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have won each of their last seven Premier League games and are unbeaten in 18 (D2). Both are Premier League bests this season.
Including the Community Shield match in 2011, the last five meetings between Manchester City and Manchester City (all comps) have seen 23 goals scored – an average of 4.6 a game.
Robin Van Persie has gone nine successive appearances without a goal in all competition; this despite attempting 24 shots a goal within his 549 minutes on this pitch during this run.
Carlos Tevez has now netted seven goals in his last six competitive games for Manchester City.
This will be United’s 51st Premier League game on a Monday. They have won 36, drawn 10 and lost four of the previous 50. It will be City’s 56th Monday match (W23 D15 L17)
All statistics courtesy of Eurosport.