One of the few good things that have come from Manchester City’s new found wealth, other than their club genuinely aspiring to be and have everything their fans have criticised United for over the past two decades, is Sir Alex Ferguson taking the derby seriously again.
For too long, whilst City were total shite, the manager seemed to lead our players in to that game without the respect required for one of the most important days of the season for the fans. There was the 3-1 in 2006 and the 4-1 a couple of seasons before that but the worst of the lot was the gutless performance our lads put out on derby day 2008, on the week that marked the 50th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster.
Now our manager takes the game seriously and more often than not we win against this Nu-City. In their first season of being The Richest Club In The World (TM) we beat them home and away. In their second season, we beat them home and away, and knocked them out of the League Cup in the semi-final, before going on to win it ourselves. In the third season, we beat them at home, drew away, but lost that all important FA Cup semi-final. Watching those twats carrying on with that ridiculous celebration was gutting and whilst winning a record breaking 19th title easily eclipsed anything else for us, that was definitely a blot on our season.
However, them winning the FA Cup set us up nicely for the first game of this season, with City, true to form, leaving thousands of empty seats at Wembley for the Community Shield. After going in 2-0 down at half time, Ferguson made some changes, and our team that came back to win 3-2 in the second half had an average age of just 22-years-old.
With City currently two points clear at the top of the table, this is the biggest derby for some time. I’d argue the one towards the end of 2009-2010 was bigger, given that City were still in contention for top four whilst we were still in contention for the title, although potentially the result of this game could go on to shape the next few months of the season and even possibly have an impact on the title.
A win for United would see us go top of the league again and that is all our lads should be thinking about. After putting out a team at Anfield last week that was set up very much to neutralise them, rather than attack them, I’d like to see us go with a team that plays to our strengths, rather than trying to cancel out City’s. The manager is more cautious these days though so it’s hard to know what he will do.
Will local lad Danny Welbeck start up front by himself again or will he partner Wayne Rooney, who came on as a midfielder last weekend. That would work for me, with Chicharito a great option from the bench. Will Vidic and Rio start in defence after playing just 52 minutes alongside each other in all competitions this season or will Jonny Evans get the nod? Vidic wasn’t at his best in Romania, unsurprisingly, but has had a few games under his belt now thanks to International duty so you’d imagine he’d start with Rio, who was rested in Europe for today. After a stint in midfield last weekend, will Phil Jones be used there again or will he move to right back? Or will Chris Smalling challenge him for that spot? Fergie likes to play our former youth teamers in these games, which could mean Fletch and Giggsy start in midfield too, but in all honesty, it’s virtually impossible to predict our formations and line-ups these days.
Whichever team Fergie picks, it has to be one that is up for the fight. Roy Keane spoke this week about how he never lost on derby day, that he couldn’t bear the thought of it, and I hope that is an attitude that is burning inside our first XI today. It isn’t just bragging rights at stake but league position too, so come on reds, let’s beat those blue bastards again.