Scott: What are your thoughts on last season and City’s failure to put up a decent fight to defend the title?
Danny: In hindsight, you get the feeling that far more has been placed on City’s failures. After all, they finished second (comfortably so) with a decent enough points tally but the narrative of identifying what went wrong is an easy one to follow.
This of course forgets quite how relentless United were in their pursuit of winning the title back and Ferguson would have been driven in this knowing it was his final season. The run that United put together between the two derbies was phenomenal but it is easy to forget that City remained within five points (still within striking distance) for the majority of the season until game 23 when they had their five game meltdown and the gap stretched out to 16 points.
Whilst City’s home form remained excellent again it did drop off from 2011/12 when they dropped just two points but the away form did not improve to counter this. What was the cause? A drop off in the ability to convert chances, some bad luck and of course the Mancini issue. Quite how bad things became behind the scenes is anyone’s guess as we were not privvy to it but once the title began to slip away there is no question that this began to manifest itself further on and off the pitch.
Scott: How do you rate Pellegrini in comparison to Mancini?
Danny: Too early to tell. The players have of course enthused about him (would you expect anything else?) but apart from the performance against an admittedly complicit Newcastle side here hasn’t been too much that has noticeably changed.
You can see little signs of what he is looking to implement, particularly trying to have more width and a presence further up the field but he is clearly still looking to flesh out on or two areas as he tries out different formations and responsibilities.
Scott: How do feel about City’s start to the season?
Danny: Four games in is very early of course but looking at the fixtures you would have imagined that 10 points was the expectation.
That City haven’t played particularly well (Newcastle aside) raises concerns but there are inevitable growing pains as the squad beds down to Pellegrini’s methods. As mentioned above the side is feeling its way under Pellegrini and it will be another half a dozen or so games before things take shape.
That said, the expectation is for points to still be picked up and accumulated as this happens. Pellegrini will need to be careful that City don’t find themselves in a bit of a hole too early.
Scott: What do you think of your new signings?
Danny: Long term all will be good additions. Alvaro Negredo looks comfortable starting and from the bench and has a good relationship with Jesus Navas, who brings pace and width but needs to look at working more in limited areas.
Fernandinho has been quiet at times and I thought we may have seen more inter-changing with him and Yaya Toure. Stevan Jovetic has made just the one appearance after an early injury but from what I saw of him in Serie A he will bring plenty to the attacking game.
Scott: Who do you think will be your most important player this season?
Danny: For all the talk of City’s failings last season, creating chances wasn’t one of them. The quality of the chances can be debated of course but one of the issues was a drop off from Sergio Aguero after such an important debut season.
Injuries hampered him throughout the season (and City were affected by this whereas the title season they went virtually injury free) which meant 2012/13 was stop-start but the drop off in production did impact on the side. If he can return to the form and goal tally from 2011/12 it will have a huge difference on City’s fortunes.
Scott: If you could have one United player, who would it be?
Danny: Much was obviously made about Robin Van Persie (most of it from Mancini) last season and whether his goals decided the destination of the title and his impact has been fantastic for United but the overwhelming threat at every derby I’ve seen is Wayne Rooney.
He is one of these players that when you see live you have a greater appreciation for, where you are able to see exactly how and where they move, how they manouevre space and how they bring other players into the game. Rooney definitely falls into this category and he is such a threat in and around the box too. It seems he is hitting a patch of form at the right time as well.
Scott: What do you think of United’s decision to snub Mourinho in favour of Moyes?
Danny: It wasn’t a surprise given the supposed anti-Mourinho feeling within Old Trafford but in some ways it was a brave decision. It seems clear Mourinho coveted the job but United felt that they preferred the more cautious ‘safe pair of hands’ that Moyes brings.
What will be interesting is how Moyes grows in to the job. His time at Everton showed him to be pragmatic and cautious (understandably in many ways) at times and whilst this will stand him in good stead you feel that he will need to develop and expand at United, which is not to say he isn’t capable of that.
Mourinho would have been a fascinating appointment though. Clearly there is a higher risk and reward with him than Moyes and there was the danger of it going wrong (relatively speaking) with him at the helm, if there was a manager who has the charisma and hubris to succeed (and maybe improve upon) Ferguson he is one of a select few capable of it.
Scott: Who do you think will win the league this season?
Danny: At the start of the season I said City would regain the title, with a likely lower points total than in recent seasons, and I’ll stand by that – at this stage. It is very early days yet but over the next 8-10 games things will settle and the table will take shape. For me, it will still be City and United with a gap to third and City to shade it – just.
Scott: Prediction for Sunday.
Danny: If you looked back over every prediction I have ever done for a derby it would be a draw, so no reason to change the habit. We are in the strange situation of two new managers at a very early stage of the season with both having dropped points so far. Does caution take over in such circumstances? I’m inclined to think so but both sides have enough to score. I’ll go for 1-1.