Manchester United legend Gordon Hill says that his old club’s best chance of success in this weekend’s derby could be the apparent loss of the ‘fear factor’ that Manchester City had built up at the Etihad.
City lost 2-0 at home to Newcastle in the League Cup this week and the former Reds winger nicknamed ‘Merlin’ believes that the momentum generated from that result, coupled with United’s late equaliser against Chelsea, may count in his old club’s favour.
“City always look like a team that can produce good performances at home but if you look at them this season, they appear to have lost the fear factor at the Etihad. The seed of doubt has been planted and that could be something we can take advantage of,” insists Hill.
Additionally, David Silva and Yaya Toure picked up injuries against the Magpies and are slight doubts for the game. Hill says the pair are crucial to the Champions style of play. “Everything goes through them,” he says. “They are the two most important players in their system. And, potentially, how much better can they get? This City team is the finished article, you know what you’re going to get, they’re at their peak.”
The cliché, of course, is that form goes out of the window when derby day comes around, but most clichés are derived from regular occurances and it’s a theory that Hill subscribes to. “This is one of the biggest derbies in the country so all bets go out of the window. As is often the case, you’ll probably see a stalemate with them cancelling each other out, or a real cracker of a game,” he says.
Hill has been passionately vocal about wanting his old side to succeed over the last twelve months, notably on the podcast that accompanies this website and also in his book which I was honoured to ghost write. One needs only merely ask the question about how United should approach the game and Gordon appears insulted that it should even be questioned.
“On the podcast I said that we should go with whatever style is a winning style but the bigger point is that Manchester United should always go into games looking to win them and particularly in matches like this. It does not suit Manchester United to sit back, we saw that last season, this club is built on attacking football and trying to win football matches and that’s what we should be doing on Sunday,” says Hill.
The philosophy of the new manager Louis van Gaal has been put under the spotlight in recent weeks following the use of a long ball game at West Brom. Gordon’s points on that are covered in the podcast but he extended on that to say he hopes that the Dutchman is building a clearly defined first eleven.
“We’ve seen the sport involve into a squad game. When I was at the club everyone knew what they were getting when Manchester United came to town and that’s why we sold out everywhere and that’s why the atmosphere would be so feverish. The famous Manchester United were in town,” explains Hill. “Nowadays you might still get a packed out crowd to see a player who’s normally a substitute for the reserves, so is the feeling still the same for those who get to see them? You can see from the calibre of players he’s brought in – from a superstar like Angel Di Maria to a fabulously gifted and under-rated worker like Daley Blind – that Louis looks to be building an established first eleven, a team that says ‘We are Manchester United’… at least, that’s what it seems like. And I hope that’s what he’s doing because that’s what I would love to see.”