The season curtain opener is less than 3 hours away from kick-off and for the first time since 1956, an affair in which United walked away 1-0 winners, we will line up against Manchester City. Roberto Mancini has tried to force the pressure back on us by admitting that United still remain top dog but the match today will no doubt mean more to our city rivals. City winning the FA Cup last season means that they have finally got a return on the billions that have been invested in the club and will be looking to continue and grow on the progression made last season. For many a season, any fixture against United has always stood out as some of the most important fixtures of City’s campaigns whereas, for United, the local derbies have been nothing more than another fixture as title contender rivals Chelsea and Arsenal have always remained more significant in the race for the title. This season, however, is different and any fan who argues otherwise is blinded by loyalty.
City stand firmly as our greatest title contenders this season for a few reasons. Firstly, their FA Cup success will boost belief over at Wastelands and they will be keen to transfer their successes to the Premier League and the promised ground of the Champions League. Secondly, City were defensively the second strongest team in the Premier League behind Chelsea last campaign and bringing in Sergio Aguero, easily one of the best young striking talents in world football, will only aid their chase on all fronts. Thirdly, I strongly believe our other rivals are in a transitional period that will dent their chances of gaining the Premier League title; Arsenal are in severe decline and an exit for Fabregas could spell disaster for their chances to contend next season and considering they drew Udinese in the Champions League qualifier, they might not even see the group stages. Chelsea have brought in a young new manager in Villas-Boas but have only bought Lukaku after missing out on Pastore, something they will have to remedy if they want to replenish their aging squad that struggled so desperately in the middle part of last year’s campaign.
United go into the fixture after what was one of the best pre-season campaigns that I can remember. An undefeated 5-fixture tour of America which ended in a gripping 2-1 victory over European champions Barcelona will have settled the team together nicely; new signings David De Gea, Ashley Young and Phil Jones all impressed with their first minutes in a United shirt and all will be keen to notch their name in a Mancunian derby. Unfortunately the trio of Carrick, Hernandez and Fletcher have all been ruled out of the game today but with Anderson showing great pre-season form, I am hoping that he can use this game as a stepping-stone for the opening Premier League fixture next weekend.
City on the other hand have had their issues pre-season. Another Hollywood bust-up between Balotelli and Mancini was great entertainment and was only another tell-tale sign of how City are a far from finished product. Team morale depends solely on winning and the player/manager relationship is clearly something that hardly exists, especially when in comparison to the respect that SAF has earned during his time as manager at United. With Tevez calling for his exit and Balotelli constantly throwing his toys out of the pram, all is not well in the City camp but they will see today as a possibility to replenish belief in the team, which is why it will be such a dangerous fixture.
I don’t know how the game will go today and I think it will be a 1 goal win either way. City look extremely dangerous now but equally so, United played some great attacking football on the tour. Ashley Young looked every penny worth the £18 million paid for him and Nani was showing the touch and control that made him such an indomitable figure in the first half of last year’s campaign. Let’s hope that United can get over their Wembley blues from the FA Cup semi-final last year against City and open the season on a positive note.