It’s Red vs Blue this Sunday as Manchester United make the short journey to the Etihad Stadium to take on bitter rivals Manchester City in the 43rd Premier League clash between the two. Although United hold the upper hand in the head-to-head score board with 21 victories to City’s 13, the tide has changed in recent years with The Citizens establishing themselves as top-dog in the Premier League. The noisy neighbours are here to stay, and it is up to United to rise to the challenge.
After a difficult start to the Premier League campaign, and question marks over the future of Jose Mourinho, United have recovered recently and shown great character to show they are indeed, still playing for the manager. The second half efforts against Newcastle, Chelsea, Bournemouth, and now Juventus, illustrate that point further. There has been no such uncertainty for Pep and co. (on the pitch anyway) as they have raced to an early lead at the top of the table; scoring goals for fun along the way. A defeat would see United fall 12 points behind City and surely end any remaining ambitions of a title challenge. Although, it is worth mentioning that City have beaten United just twice in the last eight encounters and at The Etihad, United have a pretty good record recently. Having said that, City go into this one as favourites, and deservedly so; the likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva will fancy their chances against a defence that has looked vulnerable for much of the season.
Earlier, I did a quick Q&A with Dean of City Watch ahead of the Derby. He reveals his favourite Derby moment, his thoughts on the rise of Raheem Sterling, as well as giving his score prediction.
Morning Dean. What is your favourite Manchester City Manchester United memory?
Hi Jimmy. That would have to be City’s 6-1 win over United at Old Trafford in 2011! While City beating United is common now, back then it was rare and to beat a Sir Alex Ferguson team by such a margin, at Old Trafford, was incredible. That victory marked a major change in Manchester and English football.
In contrast, which memory hurts the most?
Citizens became numb to losing to United. It hurt, but it was so familiar and expected. But with expectations growing, the 4-3 defeat to United at Old Trafford and Michael Owen’s ‘Fergie Time’ goal in 2009 was painful. I think that is the worst Manchester derby memory recently.
Will we see any of the old Pep-Jose animosity on Sunday?
I don’t think so. The animosity is still there but I reckon both have gone past showing it on camera. You never know though; emotions may run high if either team snatches a late winner!
Raheem Sterling has become a top player for City. What do you put that down to?
Determination and maturity. A victim of a witch hunt for so long, Sterling powered on and the arrival of Guardiola improved his tactical ability. Sterling’s now one of City and English football’s big superstars and deserves a lot of admiration for what he’s put up with.
As a passionate City fan, tell me what beating Man United feels like in the derby?
It feels great, always! Having said that, it’s probably not **quite** the same as it was years ago when beating United felt like winning the Champions League! It’s a common thing now and everyone loves it, but it’s part of the season and not THE season for Citizens.
What are you expecting from Jose Mourinho and United on Sunday?
I expect Manchester United to sit deep and try to cut off City’s attack, relying on fast counters. City have been weak against counters in the past but this season the offensive/defensive balance has been good leading to few goals conceded. I personally think United should be brave and go on the front-foot – teams of quality who’ve done that have sometimes benefited – but does Jose Mourinho have that in him?
How do you see the game panning out?
Predicting a derby is so hard as we saw at the Etihad last year. With that said, I just think Manchester City will be too powerful for United with their combination play and in form array of forwards. Man United will hold out for a while, but I think City will get on top eventually.
Who do you think City need to be wary of in a Red shirt?
Definitely Paul Pogba. He’s frustrating but has that rare ability to change a game out of nowhere. He made the difference in last season’s derby at the Etihad.
Finally, what is your score prediction?
Anything can happen in a Manchester derby. However, I can’t look past a City win! I’m going with 3-1 to the blues.