Vincent Kompany scored the only goal in the corresponding fixture last season
The most intensely awaited derby game in British football will take place this afternoon as Manchester’s two football teams - the best in England –lock horns in a match that has the potential of deciding the destination of this season’s League title.
Both teams are coming off 1-0 defeats midweek in the Champions League. United may have been already through but being beaten by CFR Cluj is still something of an embarrassment. City’s performance at Borussia Dortmund was even more shameful.
It certainly belied Roberto Mancini’s stated pre-match aim of playing in the Europa League. The second 45 minutes were lax, aimless and led some commentators to accuse them of throwing the game. It may be true to say they were handed the toughest group from the group-stage draw, but the lack of a single win is still a hugely damning statistic.
England’s champions must now set their sights on reclaiming their domestic title. Indeed, their manager’s employment prospects will rest on that if indeed that should prove enough to ward off his paymasters’ trigger fingers. The Abu Dhabi contingent clearly think on a far more long-term basis than Roman Abramovich but have the same Catalan coach in mind as the Russian.
Mancini’s City emerged victorious in both Premier League encounters last season, winning 6-1 at Old Trafford and 1-0 at home before snatching top spot in the most dramatic style on the final day.
The Blues have made a decent start to the defence of their crown and remain unbeaten after 15 games, but it is United who hold a three-point advantage ahead of the latest meeting.
There have been suggestions that it is already a two-horse race for the title and, with other rivals struggling for consistency, the head-to-heads between City and United could prove decisive in the final standings. There has also been talk about whether City’s early elimination from the UEFA Champions League will be a significant factor, with Mancini now not having to juggle the twin demands of Europe and domestic action.
The Red Devils overcame Reading 4-3 last weekend to pull clear of City and have been in irresistible form going forward all season, but it was yet another match in which they fell behind and Ferguson was furious with his side’s defending. He will be demanding greater concentration against a team that has the best defensive record in the league, and Ferguson says it would be one of United’s best-ever results if they can inflict a first home league defeat on City in two years.
David Silva will be given every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium. The Spaniard missed the midweek loss to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League with a hamstring injury but remains in contention and is battling to be ready.