Rio Ferdinand trudged back to his position ahead of the restart and imagine the same rage was going through his head. Why had he tried to flick the ball of Craig Bellamy’s head in the dying moments of the game? Why did that happen? What the fuck made him do that?
The next minute or two whizzed past, filled with swearing, shouting and excruciating disappointment. We had been the better team, easily, yet here we were having to accept just a point, thanks to fucking stupid behaviour. I was raging. Raging where you feel dizzy and out of control.
Then Giggs picked up the ball and played in Michael Owen. That feeling you get just before a goal is scored, where you know it has to be a goal, felt too good to be true. You knew it was going in but you couldn’t quite believe it. Scoring a winner at that time in the game would have felt amazing on any derby day, but the fact that we thought it had been thrown away in the 90th minute made that feeling unreal. It was absolute bedlam in the stands. We were as ecstatic as we had been depressed and it was the best high we’d had at Old Trafford for ages.
It’s been almost a year and a half since then and the desire to win is just as strong. Whilst still in a good position whatever the score today, to get a win would make us clear favourites with just a few months remaining.
We should expect City to line up in the same way they did at the Emirates. They left the field that day with “boring, boring, City!” ringing in their ears, following one of the most defensive displays we’ve seen a side challenging for the top four put out. They showed no desire to win the game, similarly to their performance against United at Wastelands. Since then, their manager has claimed he hopes City become more boring, which doesn’t bode well for the quality of football we should expect to see.
But all it takes is one chance. If United go out with the right mentality, all we need to do is pull off once chance and contain them. Carlos Tevez and David Silva are likely to be the only attacking outlets on the field, so whilst we’re without Rio Ferdinand, we should have enough defensively to cope with them.
The only worry, as it has been all season, is the midfield. Playing 442, we’re just not strong enough in the centre of the park. I won’t repeat all the criticisms I’ve made all season but we’re really missing the commanding element in midfield. Scholes is more than capable of bossing the game but after spending a few months out, he’s struggling to find his pre-injury form. This means we might see a five man midfield to compensate for the number City will certainly put out in the middle.
Park on the left, Nani on the right, with a midfield three of Scholes, Anderson and Fletcher? That would be my prediction. But who will start up front?
The obvious choice for this line up is Rooney. But his form, particularly in comparison to Berbatov’s, should work against him. There is then the possibility of Rooney on the left instead of Park, who has yet to play for United since returning from the Asia Cup. But the manager seemed to acknowledge how that position hadn’t worked for Rooney against Wolves, so would he risk it again the following weekend against City? So maybe Giggs would play there?
If anything, it’s nice to have the options again, something we’ve been lacking over the past month or two, and with Antonio Valencia starting training with the Reserves now, we’re soon to have even more options. Fortunately for us, Nani has really stepped up to the plate to mean Valencia’s injury hasn’t been as costly as it should have been, but we can’t deny what a bonus it will be to have him back for these vital last few months.
United’s home form is at least 10 points better than any other team in the league and today we will be hoping to continue on with that. A win should be the result we’re expecting but if we’re being realistic, a draw would be an acceptable result, even if not preferred. United haven’t been blowing teams out of the water, City will be up for it, and they are strongest in the area we are weakest. You’d like to think that De Jong will miss the game through injury as hinted, given what an impact his substitution off the field made to the result at Wastelands last season.
Essentially though, we have to go out with the knowledge we are the better side, with the need to make amends for last weekend and the belief that the title will be ours. What City do should be irrelevant. So come on Reds, bag the win, and take us one step closer to reclaiming our title.
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