Manchester derby preview: City v United – Perhaps the biggest Premier League game of all time takes place at the Etihad tonight, who will prevail?
There aren’t very many matches in the footballing world that compare to the Manchester Derby.
Indeed, there is a very real possibility that in the coming years the fixture will even eclipse the Liverpool v United derby, arguably the most fiercely contested match in the English game.
This is testament to how far Manchester City have come since being taking over by Sheikh Mansour. The derby is no longer just about bragging rights between City (Manchester’s true club) and its bigger, more successful brother, United (the glamorous world-renowned brand).
It now decides which one of these two clubs will win silverware and who will be left empty handed, heading into the summer having to nurse some deep wounds.
One glance at the Premier League table tells you all you need to know about the importance of tonight’s derby; with three games each left to play, one of which against the other and only three points separating them at the top of the table, it really is do-or-die time.
If United are able to win at the Etihad, the title is all theirs. However, a loss, and City will have done the unthinkable.
The Citizens will have turned around an eight-point deficit and stolen United’s place atop the table; not only this, but their superior goal difference will mean they will have one hand on the trophy.
The customary end-of-season mind games have reared their head and, surprisingly, it is Roberto Mancini who’s been doing most of the talking this time around, as he attempts to unsettle the old master.
Mancini’s recent defeatist attitude appears to have calmed his players down, who were on the brink of self-destruction only a few weeks ago as the pressure of holding onto top spot appeared too much for them to handle.
Maybe this made Fergie’s men feel a little complacent; no more evident than in their surrender of a two-goal lead at home to Everton last week.
If one thing is for sure, it’s that tonight will test the mettle of both sets of players. There’s no hiding place or room for error as only a victory will be good enough for City and it’s unlikely Ferguson will be happy to chance it and play for a draw, knowing that conceding one goal could ruin United’s season.
Tonight is a chance for the big players to step up and shine on the biggest of stages.
City’s Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez have a lot to prove and will hope a good performance will provide closure to their recent troubles.
United also have big-game players, none more so than Wayne Rooney who seems to have a knack for scoring on the big occasions.
I think because of the quality of the two strike forces on display there will be plenty of chances at either end, but United’s experience will be the difference and they’ll run out 3-2 winners.