Wayne Rooney celebrates for Manchester United against Manchester City
The domestic season is only four games old but United will take part in the third ‘big game’ of the season on Sunday away to Man City. Both sides have new managers, seven points and played in encouraging midweek victories in the Champions League. Infamously this fixture was won late on last season and although it’s unlikely to match that game for drama, it’s bound to be an intriguing battle with bragging rights at stake.
We welcome comments from both sets of fans.
A view from the opposition
1. Since we last met Man City have changed their manager. There seemed to be a lot of love for Mancini – was the change necessary?
I’m not sure whether “love” is the right word. There was definitely appreciation, and plenty of it, for what Mancini achieved with us. Guiding us to the FA Cup and then the Premier League after so many years without tangible success means that he’ll always be remembered fondly and rightly so, but I think those who went to the games last season realised there was something not quite right. We never really mounted a serious title defence and from early on in the campaign, we just looked flat and disinterested.
I believe the change was necessary in order to move us forward. Whether Pellegrini is the right man for that, we’ll have to wait and see, but there was too much anti-Mancini feeling within the club. Much of that has come out afterwards but you didn’t need to be particularly ‘in the know’ to realise that relations were not the healthiest. Mancini’s confrontational style worked initially but he never relented and there was no semblance of man-management. The fans will always regard him highly but I think moving him on will benefit us in the short and long term.
2. The squad personnel has been added to – do you think City’s summer transfer activity hasn’t had enough praise, particularly for getting most of it done so early in the window?
This was the key difference between this and last year. Last time around, we dillied and dallied, missed our main targets and then panicked towards the end of the window. This year, we identified targets early (not necessarily the likes of Cavani, Falcao etc who many expected us to go for), got them in without fuss and allowed them the greatest opportunity to settle. Equally, we managed to get rid of some expensive deadwood so it was a good window all in all. I suppose it’s easier for a non-City fan or the media to answer your question directly. There’s been plenty of praise from fans.
3. Of the signings, which excites you the most and which do you think will be most important to the side?
All the signings add elements which we lacked last season, but I guess Jesus Navas is the most exciting. He brings pace, width and variety – everything we didn’t have last year. It’s nothing new to suggest he’s absolutely rapid, but after what we saw during the last campaign, it’s so refreshing to see a winger prepared to take on his man, get to the byline and put crosses in. He’s settled quickly and he’ll only improve. Alvaro Negredo is a better Edin Dzeko, Fernandinho hasn’t quite bedded down yet but there are some promising signs and Stevan Jovetic comes highly regarded.
4. Were there any areas of the team that needed addressing that weren’t and was letting Barry go out on loan an error?
It’s a huge understatement to say it was an ‘error’ to let Barry leave. I wrote a piece for City’s website about him which explains my thoughts on him and I’m still staggered we’ve let him leave. The only half-argument put forward as an explanation is that we needed his wages off the bill for a year, but a) we surely can’t be that desperate to comply with FFP, and b) he’s been our most consistent player over the past couple of seasons and was such an integral part of the side it’s utter madness to allow him to go. The players are reportedly baffled, the fans definitely are and it seems Pellegrini is the only one who doesn’t rate him. We’ve already missed him and will continue to do so. I just don’t get it.
In terms of other areas of the squad, another left-back wouldn’t have gone amiss. Aleks Kolarov is nowhere near good enough for City. And if we were so content to let Barry leave, we should have added another defensive-minded central player. We’ve been left with Javi Garcia, but I wouldn’t trust him to hold a baby, let along a midfield.
5. Although there have only been a few competitive games this season, are there any obvious changes in style and system under Pellegrini?
Not a great deal. If anything, Pellegrini operates with more of a 4-4-2 system which doesn’t seem to work for our players. Fernandinho has effectively replaced Barry which adds a touch more mobility to midfield, but removes the balance of the side and the cover in front of defence. Navas is the wide option we craved last year, but there have already been repeats (especially away from home) of performances under Mancini, whereby we control possession but don’t have any urgency and lack penetration. It’s still obviously very early days, though.
6. What have you made of United so far this season?
You can miss this question out, I’ve not seen a minute of any of your games.
[We’ll keep it in just so we have a rounded, ten questions!]
7. Do you think that United’s summer business in signing Fellaini and keeping the rest of the squad is enough to ensure Moyes can challenge for the title again?
It’s an interesting one. On paper, both City and Chelsea have a superior squad, and yet you won the league by eleven points last season and have kept everyone together, plus added one or two. I’m not sure Fellaini is exactly what you needed but he’ll improve the squad and team. Rooney is the intriguing one, however. Keep him happy and motivated, and you’ve got yourself 25 goals a season. But you can’t help feeling he’s a ticking timebomb…
8. Last year United played very well on the counter attack in this fixture and could’ve won more convincingly if it weren’t for an incorrect offside decision, do you expect a less open game this time?
I think City will set out in quite an open manner. In front of the defence, we’ve got six attacked-minded players and we’re at home, so the onus will be on us to push forward. United may well sit a touch deeper, knowing we’ve vulnerable to pace on the counter attack. And I’m utterly fearful of Rooney dropping just off Van Persie to exploit the space where Gareth Barry would have been, but Fernandinho won’t be. He’ll cause havoc.
9. How do you expect City to line up and do you want to give us a score prediction?
Hart – Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov (Clichy expected to be injured) – Milner/Navas (we’ll see how bold Pellegrini is), Yaya, Fernandinho, Silva – Aguero, Dzeko
Prediction: 2-2. Plenty of goals, drama and tension.
10. Finally, what do you expect City to achieve this season?
Reclaiming the Premier League is the priority, but it’s going to be tough. Progression out of the group stage of the Champions League would be lovely and should be attained.
David Moyes confirmed to MUTV that Rafael, Jones and Welbeck are all back in training and he’ll assess whether they’re ready to play a part in Sunday’s game. It means that with the exception of Darren Fletcher, Moyes has a full squad to choose from an hence some difficult selection decisions to make.
Manchester City are in a similar position to United. Micah Richards, Gael Clichy and David Silva are all back in training leaving only new signing, Demichelis, out injured. It’s thought the game will come too soon for Clichy so Richards may have to fill in at left back if Kolarov isn’t trusted. Kompany got through the midweek game in the Czech Republic having returned from injury so he’ll be ready to lead City out.
Potential Manchester United line up
Conclusion & Prediction
Derby day always brings nerves and tension so it’s likely we’ll see another tight game that could be settled by the single goal. Both sides had been struggling for form prior to Champions League games but can both now go into the game with a degree a confidence. Much will depend on how brave Moyes and Pellegrini are with their team selections. Navas out wide would be bold from Pellegrini whilst the only real question mark on United side is the wide left position. Kagawa would be bold bearing in mind he hasn’t had much football but Welbeck has shown he can do the job required. It’s very tough to pick a winner between the two sides as they do match up so very well.
We can only hope that the game passes without fan incidents like those seen last year. The Derby will always be passionate but it needs to shown in supporting the teams and not baiting each other.
Prediction: 2-1 United.