With Manchester United facing Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium on Wednesday, I posed a couple of questions to Jim, a City fan for over 30 years.
Stretford End Arising: What are your thoughts on Wednesday’s game? How are City likely to line up? What formation do you think they will adopt and what team do you expect to be selected? Which players should United keep an eye on? Which United player do you think poses the greatest threat to City?
Jim: Without stating the obvious and like all Blues, I am really looking forward to the Derby (always do anyway !) but with our 4th position and tucked in nicely behind the leaders also coming off the back of a much needed win last week I feel much more positive than I would have done a couple of weeks ago.
Now that Tevez is back to provide much needed leadership (master stoke by Mancini in making him captain)I believe we will play to our strengths again and revert to a 4-5-1 with Tevez up front to make the break. We should play 5 across the middle and push up denying united the space in the midfield (their strength?) if we sit back and give united time and space in the middle they are probably the best team in the league at exploiting an under pressure defence.
It naturally follows that City go with the same team (or almost identical) that won comfortably at West Brom. i.e learn the mistakes of the previous 3 games which were lost by playing 4-4-2 and having Richards, Lescott (should never have been bought imo) and Bridge in defence.
The biggest danger for Man United besides Tevez (naturally!) is Silva, he is showing great awareness and quality – his link up play with Tevez at West Brom and defence splitting passing were a delight and could pose great problems for United if they don’t stay close to him (So maybe Park or Fletcher will need to mark?) he is the main creative midfielder (the others are mainly holding players) and could cause great problems.
I expect Johnson to be 1st off the bench for change-up if city are not winning – he has the potential to be match winner off the bench.
I note that united are struggling with Injuries, but I still wouldn’t write them off -nothing as dangerous as a wounded tiger? Old Taggert is a wiley old fox so I fully expect him to produce a miracle cure for Shrek and unveil him at half time back from a miracle cure trip to the States! Failing that Nani is a threat – for his unpredictability if nothing else and could have good day against our useless full backs (all our money spent and we dont have a decent full back on either side) Traditionally Scholes and Giggs have good days against City – but may be injured/not match fit? Hernandez is quality and presents United’s best striking threat (especially if we are stupid enough to play Lescott!
SEA: What are your thoughts on Roberto Mancini?
Jim: Really like Bobby as we call him, many blues are not so sure it’s probably because he brings an italian mindset and culture to the team i.e. caution and patience (we are used to free flowing gung-ho ‘score at all costs’ open football – i.e. Keegan and Sven?). But he brings proven quality – winning the Serie A several times with different teams? It will clearly take time for his methods (including the well documented training sessions) to be adopted and developed, but I firmly believe if this team can stay together with Mancini in charge, we can only go from strength to strength. He recognises that you need quality to compete at the highest level – which we have not had for a long time.
SEA: Which of the new summer signings have you been impressed by and who has disappointed?
Jim: Good question! the jury is out on many of them at the moment – several have a lot to prove (Bridge, Lescott, Boateng, Barry, Yaya Toure and we may bought a whole lot of attitude with Ballotelli, who although only 19 has a history of problems with authority (the main reason why Mourinho benched him so much whilst at Milan.) If he knuckles down and gets used to the physicality of the premiership he could be top draw.
On the plus side, Aleksander Kolarov (Serbian national full back – Vidic’s pal) could be a diamond when fit, Milner, Silva and Viera have already proved to be great buys that bring the right qualities of experience, desire, professionalism and quality to the team.
Fingers crossed if they stay together and work hard as a unit, success may not be too far away. Being realistic I would expect, and be happy with a trophy next year.
SEA: Which young City players are worth keeping an eye on for the future?
Jim: Sadly the buying of mega rich players will inevitably limit the time and development of many of City’s famed academy/fringe players. I have always been a strong advocate of developing your own players and brining them on – so I greeted the status as almost overnight becoming the world’s richest club with a certain trepidation. I balance must be made between expensive imports and the baggage (agents/ fees/ego’s and sometimes genuine quality!) that they bring with them.
Of the present 25 man 1st team squad only 3 have come through the ranks: Shaleum Logan, Micah Richards and Michael Johnson. The under 21’s in the squad have all have limited or pre-season game time: Dedryck Boyata, Greg Cunningham, Abdi Ibrahim and Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely. The only exception being Dedryck Boyata (19)who has played excellently when given the chance – it was he who frustrated Drogba in City’s recent win, to such an extent that Drogba was substituted in frustration.
SEA:: Favourite Manchester United Vs Manchester City match?
Jim: We could have done with few more victories to be honest (there have been 156 competitive meetings between the teams. United have won 65 and City 42) probably my favourite match was the Denis law derby at Old Trafford (1975 I believe) which was a tight game with 10 minutes left and no score when Franny Lee passed to Denis law (ex United legend) in the box who was facing away from the goals and instinctively back heeled the ball into the net to send united to a 1-0 defeat. I have never had to suppress my emotions so much at a match before or since – because I was behind the goals and he scored directly in front of me – but I was with a group of reds. It was also frightening because it was the days of crowd trouble (all clubs had problems with hooligans back then) and a few hundred United fans left the Stretford End and reached the half way line before being turned back by the police and stewards – shame, they were probably only trying to congratulate their neighbours on their victory?
SEA: Favourite all time City player?
Jim: Easy this …Colin Bell was the greatest player to ever pull on the sky blue shirt (followed by Mike Doyle).
SEA: Normally I would thank the person for participating in this feature and wish them luck for the remainder of the season. Not a chance this time though!!
If you wish to discuss the Manchester derby with myself or other members of the Stretford End Arising community, you can do so here Stretford End Arising forum