Old Trafford, Manchester
January 22, 2010; 8:30 P.M. IST – Live on ESPN

It’s the face off between two namesakes at the Theatre of Dreams as Manchester United host Birmingham City. United will be looking to carry on their exceptional home form which has seen them top the league table despite their ordinary away form. Birmingham City on the other hand are in a relegation dog fight and any points against the league leaders will be a happy bonus. Interestingly Sir Alex is yet to lose to any of his former players, so Alex McLeish’s task looks even more daunting.

The master has never lost against any of his disciples thus far.

Even the most optimistic United fan wouldn’t have thought that the Red Devils would be unbeaten at this stage of the league campaign, but Sir Alex’s men have always strived for at times achieved the impossible. Winning and garnering all three points would be the only thing on the Red Devils’ minds when United take the field this weekend.  The league has been unusually competitive this season and there are absolutely no freebies on offer.

The team from Midlands, in contrast to the league leaders, has an altogether different set of priorities. Although Birmingham are in a good position in the Carling Cup campaign, their topmost priority will undoubtedly be to survive relegation. After an excruciating derby against Aston Villa, where they surrendered a lead in the dying moments of the game, the Blues can hope for no mercy from Fergie’s men.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Manchester United

United will be expected to be at full strength as there are no major injury concerns other than that of long term absentees Hargreaves and Valencia. However with Rafael serving his one game suspension, John O’shea could get a game in at the Right Back position. United manager’s team selection could also be influenced by the rescheduled tricky midweek trip to Blackpool. Sir Alex could look to his squad players to step in and rest the usual suspects. Johny Evans or Chris Smalling could feature at the back as Rio Ferdinand could be saved for the away trip.

At the heart of the midfield Anderson looks certain to get the nod as he has shown flashes of brilliance and looks to be finally coming into his own. With Park away on national duty, United’s left wing has been an area of concern. Gabriel Obertan scored an impressive hattrick for the reserves and could feature on the left hand side of midfield. Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov are expected to lead the line with the ever improving Nani providing ammunition down the right wing.

Football Fans Know Better

Birmingham City

City are one of the league’s lowest scorers with no real goal threat of note. However defensively they are a solid unit and the center back partnership of Roger Johnson and Scott Dann is reasonably miserly.  Sadly though, Dann has been ruled out for the remainder of the league campaign due to a hamstring problem.

However there is a reason to be optimistic for Birmingham fans in the form of new signing David Bentley from Tottenham. Robbie Keane seemed to be well on his way to join Brum only for the Birmingham management to pull the plug on the deal on account of a disagreement in wages.

Zigic remains an option to be called upon from the bench in case goals are needed; the towering striker could prove yet again to be a handful in the air as United found out at St Andrew’s. Hleb could also influence the game from the bench with his characteristic flair and creativity.

Key Match Facts

1) Birmingham haven’t won at Old Trafford since 1978.

2) Birmingham have fired in fewer shots on target than any other team.

3) Man Utd have won the last nine home games against Birmingham City with the Blues failing to score in any of those matches.


Anderson (Man Utd)

The Brazilian young gun has been a bit of an enigma at Old Trafford since his arrival three seasons ago. However this season Ando has settled down and performed to his potential. Those driving runs from midfield are his forte and could prove to be Birmingham’s downfall if Anderson turns on some Samba magic at Old Trafford.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Manchester United 2-0 Birmingham City

Man United have been invincible at home this season with 10 wins and a draw in 11 league games at Old Trafford. Red Devils also have the joint best defense in the league so normal service should be the order of the day at the Theatre of Dreams.