Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Derby Day in Manchester

As I sit here on the eve of what could be the biggest Manchester Derby at least in my life time, I find it hard to be objective while writing this post. As I've stated on several occasions I am an unapologetic Manchester United supporter. I want...no wait, expect them to win tomorrow night. However these feelings of needing to beat Manchester City are new to me, it comes from the fact that City have now become a true player in the Premier League. Even the hardest United supporter cannot deny this anymore, maybe little brother has finally grown up?

To understand this you have to understand the history of the Manchester derby. Although heated it's not at the level say of the Merseyside derby (Everton v Liverpool) or the Eternal city derby (Roma v Lazio). Unlike the two rivalries mentioned they has been a massive gulf in class between United and City for a very long time. For stretches of time during the 80's and 90's City were in the 2nd division, now known as the championship. While United were challenging for titles and winning major trophies. In all competitions United lead the the way in terms of wins by a 65 to 42 margin with 49 draws. During this time City would come up with a win here and there but for the most part the match was a write off for United, Big brother kicked little brother, there fore it is hard to build a real rivalry when it's so one sided. Especially in the 90's where United  won every game played between the two.

However the stakes changed in the middle of the last decade when investors were suddenly interested in investing with City and bringing success to the club. While United were in the midst of winning 3 straight league crowns, City were starting to pour money into the club and buy players we never though would ever want to play at Eastlands.

Then came the news that on September 1st 2008 Sheik Mansour, one of the richest men on earth had bought the club and had signed Robinho for a British record fee. This was the first time I become concerned about the Blue threat. Although Robinho didn't turn out to be the world beater people expected it was clear that the gauntlet had been thrown down, especially to United who had for the longest time flashed its own money for top talent. Now with United unable or unwilling to spend on the best players in the market, there is all the reason to think City could take over as the powers not just in Manchester but all of England as well.

When looking at the two potential line ups for tomorrow's game, one could easily see the possibility that United could get hammered by the "noisy neighbours" as Sir Alex called them. I pray that won't happen, but there is a chance. United have a very thin squad in terms of proven talent, the club has a lot of promising young talent in its ranks, like Fabio and Rafael Da Silva, Federico Macheda, Javier Hernandez, Chris Smalling etc... but done of them are top flight ready just quite yet. I include Hernandez in there even though he's had an amazing start to his United career, you have to remember he's only 21 and still learning the Premier League. Also factor in the proven players like Nani, Ryan Giggs, Owen Hargreves, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney will not play due to injury and potentially Paul Scholes and Dimitar Berbatov may miss it due to illness and one can see where the issues arise.

Now compare this to City who's only major missing pieces in the recently suspended Mario Balotelli and  potentially Kolo Toure, and the bench is deep enough to replace these players without too much fuss. They will also be boosted by the return of their top scorer and former United player Carlos Tevez. He could be the X factor between United leaving Eastland with points or leaving empty handed.

If last years games are any indication on the how this year will play out, Red Devil supporters have every right to be concerned. Yes United won all 4 match ups last season. However there is a case that City were not only in every game until the end, but might have deserved a better fate than they got last season. This is especially true of the first derby of last season where the game was back and forth and by the 6th minute of 4 minutes of injury time City deserved at least a point....until Michael Owen showed up.

That game was one of the best games of football I've even seen, but it also served as a warning to us United fans. The days of dominating City were now over. So far this season City have proven themselves potential title challengers and have shown that they can break into the big four clubs of England. This puts them for the first time in almost 40 years in direct competition with United for the title, and even though it early in the season United a paying close attention to it's cross town rivals.

So while tomorrow's game will not decide who will win the Premiership, rest assured it will go a long way in either maintaining the order of things or changing the dynamic of this long standing derby.


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