It’s derby day! Rob Pollard is a City fan and a freelance writer who’s taken time out to answer a few questions on today’s game and City in general.
Scott: Rob, what are your favourite memories of derby day?
Rob: The 3-1 win at Maine Road when Goater nicked the ball off Gary Neville will always be special because, in those days, beating United never felt like it was on the cards. I’d watched us get battered so many times that you’d turn up on derby day just hoping not to get a hammering, so to win that day will take some beating. Goater got his 100th, too, which made it even more memorable. Of the recent wins, last season’s 3-0 at Old Trafford was the most complete performance – even more so than the 6-1 – so I’d put that one pretty high up my list.
Scott: I’d agree. 6-1 felt like a mental one off, when there wasn’t much between the two teams that season. But that 3-0 last season felt like the beginning of the end. Gary Neville says he wouldn’t have any of our players in the team of the season, but what’s your combined Manchester XI?
Rob: On form, I’d say something like: De Gea; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Rojo, Blind; Toure, Fernandinho; Milner, Rooney, Silva; Aguero.
Scott: Looking at recent form then, United have finally started playing well but City have gone well off the boil. What’s gone on there?
Rob: It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty. There’s a lack of pace and directness, which I think has hurt the side. Chelsea have Hazard, Bayern have Robben, Barcelona have Messi and Neymar and Real Madrid have Ronaldo and Bale – all players who run at defences at pace and cause havoc. City haven’t really got that. Navas is the closest, but he is a squad player and not a world-class star.
Scott: Do you want the club to stick by Pellegrini for at least another season?
Rob: A lot depends on who’s available who guarantees an upgrade on Pellegrini. If I thought for one minute there was someone out there who would come in on a long-term deal and was a sure-fire route to success, like perhaps Pep Guardiola is seen as being, then I’d say the club should do it. The fact is, though, the pool of available managers is very small. Some of our fans just want to get rid of Pellegrini after one bad season without actually having a viable alternative lined up, which is daft, really. And, let’s not forget, Pellegrini is a very, very good manager whose first season at the club was successful and full of attacking brilliance. I think he deserves a bit more respect, and I also feel like he’s taken the absolute brunt of the blame when, perhaps, the problems are more far-reaching. The players certainly need to look at themselves, and the transfer strategy last summer doesn’t appear to have moved the team on much, either. There needs to be an injection of youth and pace this summer because there’s no doubt the squad is aging.
Scott: Who is City’s most important player?
Rob: David Silva. He’s at the centre of everything City do going forward. The other players all look to him when they get the ball because they know if they give it to him, he won’t lose it and, more often than not, he’ll produce something brilliant that helps unlock a defence. Best player I’ve seen at City by some distance.
Scott: Which United player would you most want in your squad?
Rob: David De Gea. Joe Hart’s improved a lot since he was dropped last season, and his display at the Nou Camp was pretty special, but De Gea is just brilliant. There are still holes in Hart’s game – distribution and the ability to command his area, in particular – whereas I don’t see many in De Gea’s at all. He’s been United’s best player for two years now.
Scott: Which, to be fair, probably hasn’t been too difficult! Finally, what are your predictions for Sunday?
Rob: City prefer playing against sides who come at them and try and attack a bit, so I think they’ll win. I’ll say 2-1 City.
Follow @RobPollard_ on Twitter.