In what is becoming one of the most highly anticipated local derbies in world football, this weekend welcomes the return of the Manchester Derby. Just over 13 months ago, Manchester United were conflicted to a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of their local rivals at Old Trafford in what could easily be labeled as ‘The most embarrassing day in the life of a United fan’.
After years of City being in the shadow of the Red Devils, the 6-1 defeat was a clear message to all Manchester United fans that City meant business. And to add insult to injury, City beat Manchester United to the Premier League title on goal difference in a 2011-2012 campaign I’d rather forget. No major trophies and local rivals winning the league in a typically United style, oh no, what a dreadful six months that was.
This weekend, City host United at the Etihad with an unbeaten record this season but they still trail the reds in second having drawn six of their 15 league games so far. City were dealt a massive blow earlier this week when manager Roberto Mancini confirmed that David Silva was set to miss their final Champions League group game against Borussia Dortmund but he seems to have over come a hamstring injury which may put him in contention for a start against United. Apart from that, City will be hoping that James Milner and Gael Clichy can prove their fitness in time for Sunday’s super showdown and have no other new injury concerns.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have being plagued with injuries over the past few months and there are no real signs that it is going to get any better. Having lost Anderson for at least three weeks after he picked up a hamstring injury, Tom Cleverley is now also a major doubt due to a calf injury. United were hoping to welcome back influential captain Nemanja Vidic but that again looks unlikely as he played no part in the mid-week game to CFR Cluj.
Although Sir Alex Ferguson has been known to take big risks in the past so I wouldn’t be surprised if Vidic did play despite his injury concerns. United will however be hoping to welcome back Antonio Valencia as they currently have one fit winger but if Tony V doesn’t return in time, it is expected that Danny Welbeck will deputise for the Ecuadorian powerhouse. The reds will be looking to get revenge over their arch rivals after losing two games out of three last season which has all but setup this weekend’s super Sunday clash to be one of the most physical and hard fought encounters to date.
City are firm favourite’s although they have only won seven of their previous 30 Premier League meetings, with Manchester United coming out on top in 17. City have been looking strong going forward in recent times and with United’s defensive frailties, this might cause a lot of problems to the Old Trafford outfit. Although, City have been a little complacent from set pieces recently due to the appointment of defensive coach Angelo Gregucci who has tried to use zonal marking but opposing teams have tried to exploit it, most notably Ajax who scored two simple goals at the Etihad last month. I predict a strong but intense game with a draw the most likely outcome. If United decide to counter-attack City, then it could make way for one of the games of the season.
Predicted team (4-3-2-1): De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Carrick, Scholes, Jones, Welbeck, Rooney, Van Persie