Old Trafford, Manchester
February 12, 2011, 12:45 PM GMT
The biggest game of the weekend takes us to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ as league leaders United welcome neighbors City in the ‘Battle of M60’. The battle lines have been drawn, it’s now up to the warriors on either side to defend their front. The Manchester Derby is growing in stature and eminence, and it’s only a matter of time before this fixture would rival any other dual in the footballing world.
Sir Alex’s team faced its first defeat of the Premier league campaign at the Molineux last weekend, and could have hardly asked for a more motivating encounter to dust themselves up. City, on the other hand, swept West Brom aside thanks to their inspirational leader Carlos Tevez. United need to get back to winning ways with the Gunners breathing down their neck, while Roberto Mancini’s men can move within two points of the leaders if they triumph at Old Trafford. It would be interesting to notice Manchester City’s approach as they have often been criticized of being too negative against the big teams, especially away from the Eastlands.
Team news and Tactical Brief
Man United were dealt a severe blow last weekend as Rio Ferdinand suffered an injury during the warm-up session before the Wolves game. Rio’s absence has often left Ferguson short of defensive cover as young Johnny Evans has lost confidence and form whereas Chris Smalling, although reasonably solid, lacks big match experience. Johnny Evans is set to miss the game with an ankle injury whereas Smalling has recovered from his knock. Wes Brown doesn’t seem to feature in the gaffers plans these days; Brown’s experience could come in handy at this juncture but will Fergie trust him is a different matter altogether. All said and done ,Smalling is most likely to partner Vidic, at least this weekend. United would be bolstered by the return of Park Ji Sung from the Asia Cup, the South Korean could walk straight back into playing eleven as Ryan Giggs could be rested.
Antonio Valencia is on the road to recovery but still a couple of weeks away from first team reckoning, whereas Hargreaves continues to occupy his permanent place in the physio room. Rest of the squad is fit and would be raring to go against their hated neighbors. Nani, Berbatov and Rooney would be looked upon to provide the goal scoring threat whereas Carrick and Fletcher could be the midfield combination Sir Alex deploys against City. Every United fan has been waiting with bated breath to see the best of Wayne Rooney as the season reaches its decisive phase. United’s Captain Nemanja Vidic could have his work cut out dealing with the ever-present threat of Carlos Tevez. The race for the Golden Boot will heat up further, as the two front-runners, Berba and Carlitos, will battle it out. Ironically, it was the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov at United that spelled doom’s day on Tevez’s Old Trafford stint.
Probable Starting Line-up: E. van der Sar, Rafael, C. Smalling, N. Vidic, P. Evra, D. Fletcher, M. Carrick, Nani, Park Ji Sung, D. Berbatov, W. Rooney.
Manchester City, who are fresh and energized by their terrific win last weekend, would look to heap further misery on Fergie’s men. On the injury front, doubts remain over the participation of their young maverick- Mario Balotelli. In further disheartening news for the blues, Nigel De jong is also a doubt after fresh injury concerns over the Dutchman, but Mancini would try his best to get his midfield destroyer out in this much awaited contest. Also joining the treatment table are young English defender Micah Richards and wing wizard Adam Johnson, who are all but out of the derby.
It would be fascinating to witness the battle of wits between two of football’s brilliant minds. The Italian maestro would be looking to prove his mettle against probably the game’s greatest manager and this time he has the resources at his disposal to get one over Ferguson. Mancini would more than likely deploy his favored single striker formation, with the Argentine hit man as the leading line. David Silva has come into his own for the Blues from Eastland and has received well deserved praise from his captain. Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry are nailed on certainties to start this all important dual and would be looking to keep Berbatov and co quite. Vincent Company and Kolo Toure have formed an admirable partnership at the heart of the City defense, with the former being exceptionally brilliant. City’s newest acquisition -the tall and lanky Bosnian Edin Dzeko has already scored twice against the Red Devils for his former club Wolfsburg, but would most likely start from the bench, although he could still prove to be a game changer. City have travelled well this season and would surely come to Old Trafford with an eye on maintaining their good away form. The inform Carlos Tevez – Old Trafford’s hero turned villain – will undoubtedly hog the limelight in every newspaper column before this monumental battle.
Local Derbies are always difficult to predict, as the cliché goes “form book goes out of the window on derby day”. Both teams are aware of the momentous occasion that the Manchester Derby has become; its one game both set of supporters can’t bear to see their side lose. Bragging rights, pride and passion would be high on agenda, as well as the small matter of all 3 points.
Probable Starting Line-up: J. Hart, Boateng, K. Touré, V. Kompany, A. Kolarov, N. de Jong, G. Barry, J. Milner, Y. Touré, D. Silva, C. Tévez.
1) City have failed to score in four of the last five league encounters with United.
2) Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have not conceded a first half goal at Old Trafford in the Premier League since April 2010.
3) Man Utd have earned 37 points at home this season out of a possible 39, 10 more than the next best home record.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Carlos Tevez – The lynchpin
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City): Who else, but the Argentine would be at the center of it all over again. He is the lynchpin of Roberto Mancini’s team, every City attack steams through Tevez, and thus he is the man Vidic and co would look to stifle in order to preempt any City attack. Tevez however seems to enjoy playing against United and invariably scores; moreover, his run could continue this weekend with Rio Ferdinand’s absence weakening United’s backline. The Argentine was rested and didn’t participate in his countries International friendly against Portugal this midweek.
Manchester United 1-1 Man City
Roberto Mancini’s team is a well drilled outfit; the Italian has mixed caution with aggression astutely. The sides are evenly matched, however the onus will firmly be on Sir Alex’s team to break the City wall.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST
United 4 – 3 City [Classic Archive, 2009]