The forecast for M16 0RA, Manchester, 12.02.11
Tough call. City have ‘recovered’ from a bit of a New Year blip, supposedly, but with all due respect, beating the Bromsters doesn’t quite stop my palms sweating or my bum winking like a freshly caught trout’s mouth. United lost at Molineux, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s one freak event in one very freaky weekend, but not one United player will be having an existential crisis. They don’t dwell on things like that, and they’ll be bulletproof in terms of belief and attitude at Old Trafford tomorrow, as always. The only hint of an unsettling distraction may be the irritating but pertinent tittle-tattle about a certain Qatar Holdings and a £1.6billion eviction notice for the Glazers, but again I doubt it will make the men on the pitch uneasy.
It’s hard to know what’s City’s most effective overall approach to the derby would be, as this is a United that have shown several hairline fractures this season. They’re more susceptible than their league position suggests. A stupid pundit thing to say, but had Chelsea not thrown it away by firing Raymondo, things would be a lot tighter at the very top. There is a way around them, especially for the new City, and while I doubt Mancini will be gung-ho, I’m not sure the uber-caginess he employed with Arsenal and United’s visit to Eastlands will do the job. Clubs going to OT with the mentality ‘we mustn’t lose’, usually lose. Wolves, albeit on their home turf, took the game to United and won it. As far as I can tell, that’s the only way to do it, and hopefully tomorrow will be a more open, exciting game, whatever the result. If City go at United and brush off the enormity of the occasion – easier said than done – they’ll win it, and it’s game on title-wise again. But I’m not going to be naïve enough to put money on it.
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Tevez will have a tough day, and you can bet he’ll be thwarted and needled into doing something rash if he doesn’t stay calm. But he’ll be hell-bent on making life as difficult as possible and not being where his markers expect him to be. If City can multi-task and throw United off by continually changing the hymn-sheet, they might get them all flustered, frustrated and sloppy. But it’s so hard to do that, and as we know only too well, it’s not over until the fat lady stopped singing and went home ages ago with United. City tend to be most dangerous with a goal or two as a buffer and the freedom to hit a stride. They can run away with it in such situations, but United simply will not allow that to happen, so it’s going to be a very tight fixture.
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Unless, of course, we capitulate early on. It shouldn’t be a fear, but it is. Every City fan has it in the back of their mind somewhere, and it’s going to take a couple more generations to breed it out of the sky-blue gene pool. Sadly, it’s a self-perpetuating angst, and very counter-productive for fixtures like this, but the tides are turning ever so slightly, and the derby has always thrown up a few choice surprises. It’s still hope, I’m afraid, until we start winning things for fun like United have done for the last 15 years.
As far as teams go, Sir Fergie will just lie, counter lie and lie again about injuries, etc, then field his strongest team of gnarly old hands. I don’t know why he bothers. Our biggest assets besides Tevez will be Silva and DeJong, if he can shake off the knee injury, and maybe Dzeko will shine. That he remains an unknown quantity could work in our favour.
Like I said, tough call. But I’m going with United 3 – 2 City. I think we’ll put the wind up them more than ever, but it’s United, innit. They make me ill. I just think they’ll edge it. Not because we can’t beat them, just because we won’t.
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