Match Preview: Manchester United Vs Manchester City

By Gareth Freeman

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Derby day in Manchester is always a special occasion but this year the stakes are higher than they have been in many years.  For over a decade now United’s dominance of the Premier League has cast a shadow over City.  The stakes have risen somewhat now Manchester’s other team have squillions to spend and have enjoyed a terrific start to the season.  The fans at Eastlands have genuine belief they are on the cusp of greatness and for the first time will feel they can be a genuine threat to United in terms of challenging for honours and not just derby bragging rights.

A major blow for the visitors is the not entirely unexpected loss of striker Emmanuel Adebayor.  The Togo international has been handed a three game ban for stamping on Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie last weekend so City will be without the man who has scored four goals in four games.  Despite the fact that City acquired plenty of centre-forwards in the summer they are in the midst of an attacking crisis. Robinho, Benjani and of course Adebayor are all definite absentees.

Boss Mark Hughes’ problems don’t end there though, former United man Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz are also majors doubts for the fixture while midfield star Stephen Ireland is also unlikely to take part.  The visitors problems up front are reflected in the bookmakers verdict on the outcome, the odds on heavy favourites but derbies can always go either way.

United themselves have no new injury worries and Sir Alex Ferguson has the benefit of an almost fully fit squad to chose from.  Edwin Van der Sar, Owen Hargreaves and Obertan are all ruled out while Rafael may feature, though that is very unlikely.  United’s midweek win over Besiktas should not have tired the players out too much and the squad is big enough to cope with European ties so I doubt fatigue will factor for United after their Champions League exploits.

City will certainly consider this their biggest test to date and will travel the short distance to Old Trafford full of confidence following their 4-2 victory over Arsenal last week.  For me the scoreline in that tie flattered City somewhat and Arsenal controlled large periods of the game without finding the net.  I’m sure most of the manutd24 readers out there will agree with me that we are yet to see United at their best this season but, like all real champions, they have picked up the points even when they’re not playing particularly well.

United’s key man on the day could well be Wayne Rooney.  The England international has already bagged five goals this season and fingers crossed this could be the year when he manages to score on a consistent basis.  Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit the pressure was really on Wayne to stand up to the plate and fill Ronaldo’s boots and so far he is doing an excellent job.  Veteran midfielders Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs have also started the season very well and both may play some part at the weekend, even if it is a cameo from the bench.  The pair should never be underestimated and I expect United to rely on their experience and intelligence through the course of the season, this could be a pivotal factor on Sunday.

Manchester derby day is always a special day on the football league calendar but this one should be the most highly charged in some time.  For the first time in a long time both sets of fans have high expectations for the season ahead and that should add to an already intense atmosphere between the two sets of supporters.  With City’s attacking problems you would expect United to be the stronger of the two sides and even though I think they’ll win I wouldn’t bet on it being easy for them.

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