“When is the derby” is the first question I ask when the football fixtures are announced. Well, we have reached that date and the 147th Manchester derby is almost upon us.
Manchester United vs. Manchester City requires little introduction, we all know what is at stake; we all know the meaning to both sets of fans. The atmosphere leading up to a derby is always special; it is the talk of the town. The game creates a friendly (and not so friendly) rivalry between family members, friends and work colleagues. Victory is a must!!
Rather than me discuss the fortunes of Manchester City – you can gather an insight into their season by reading the thoughts Jim, a Manchester City fan here: Other Side Of The Coin: City Fan On The Derby, Mancini and More.
Team Selection Thoughts
Regardless of the virus, which has spread throughout the United camp, I’m expecting a near enough full strength team – with Rooney, perhaps Nani and long term injuries missing out.
Dimitar Berbtaov resumed training on Monday and is likely to lead the line in a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation. The Bulgarian has failed to score since the hat-trick against Liverpool in September, which has lead to a gradual return of sniping comments. He was poor against Bursaspor or his performance level was down compared to earlier in the season. Even during this current dry spell his overall play has been of a high standard – he was very good against Stoke City and instrumental in the late winner scored by Javier Hernandez. Every player is entitled to a poor game. A goal on Wednesday would be a welcome confidence booster. If selected the derby will be Berbatov’s 100th appearance for United.
Options on the wing (due to virus and injuries) are somewhat limited. With doubts surrounding Ryan Giggs and Nani, Ji-Sung Park, Gabriel Obertan and Bebe are seemingly the only fit wingers. I’m not the greatest fan of Park on the wing, but thankfully he has rediscovered form in recent weeks, at the perfect time after a sticky start to the season. He is almost certain to start. Who to start on the other wing is more problematic. If available, Giggs will make his thirty-fourth consecutive appearance in a derby match. Man United have won twenty of the previous thirty-three, drawn seven and lost six (the first defeat coming in his fifteenth derby). Should Giggs start? Who can forget the pass he supplied to Michael Owen and how he tormented Micah Richards in the dramatic 4-3 victory last season. However, after an injury and his age Giggs perhaps requires more game time than previously to regain match sharpness. I’m wary of his readiness – in what will be a blood and thunder fast paced match. He has the experience over Obertan, who has impressed with his self assurance. He has drifted in and out of games, but when in possession he has looked lively and direct. I think Giggs should start.
I’m expecting centre midfield to consist of Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes. From a personal point of view, I really like the look of the midfield trio. Carrick and Scholes provide passing quality and the ability to control a game, while Fletcher is full of energy, harassing opponents and is increasingly offering in attacking situations. Fletcher has had a slow start to the campaign, well compared to last season anyhow, but in recent weeks he is starting to rediscover his form. The same somewhat applies to Carrick – he is another that splits fans. I’m very much a Carrick fan and sing from the same hymn sheet as Streford End Arising forum member Sleepy, Michael Carrick: Midfield Genius. Similar to Burarspor (away) Scholes will sit just in front of the back four dictating play. Fletcher will play the furthest forward supporting Berbatov.
I’ll be surprised if the back five is not the same that started against Tottenham Hotspur. Perhaps Brown for Rafael to counter the strength of Milner? I’m inclined to stick with the young Brazilian who has been superb since his recall to the team.
Predicted team: Van der Sar; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Park, Carrick, Fletcher, Scholes; Giggs, Berbatov.
Predicted score: 2-1 for United, with goals from Fletcher and Berbatov.
If you wish to discuss the derby with myself or other members of the Stretford End Arising community, you can do so in the Stretford End Arising Forum