So, here it is – the big one! Well, almost. For me Liverpool will always be the bigger fixture but, in terms of the title race, this is the big one!
We are going into the game 3 points clear of our “noisy neighbours” and I hope that acts as a way of spurring us on to add even more daylight between the two teams rather than a safety net. Against Cluj I felt that we were watching a team that knew they were top of the group so couldn’t be arsed. We can’t do that on Sunday. Those 3 points need to be turned into 6 because I don’t think goal difference will be the problem this year.
Imagine ending their unbeaten season at their, well Manchester City councils, house? I’m getting goosebumps already.
Ahead of the game I spoke to Andrew Breading, cofounder of TattooedFootball.com about the game, Mancini, Tevez and the champions league.
Thanks to Andrew for his time but here’s hoping that come 4 o’clock on Sunday he isn’t happy!
What are your thoughts on your start to the season? Going out of the champions league at the group stage for the second year running must have been a bitter pill to swallow?
The start of the season is going well. The only unbeaten team in England is a great place to be in December. Obviously, I’d prefer it if we were top, but there are still 23 games to go! For a club in crisis (as many journos would have you believe) we’re doing just great thanks. I’m gutted that we’re not still in the Champions League. It was always going to be hard in the group we had and I think it’s been a reality check for a lot of people, myself included. We’ve learnt a lot and I am sure that we will not make the same mistakes again.
Consistent champions league football is such an important factor for the club. Is it essential that, next year, you go a long way in the competition?
It has to be different next year. If we don’t get past the group stages some serious questions will have to be asked. But looking at what United did, they took a few attempts before winning so you’ve shown that it is a long term battle, not an immediate result. Financial Fair Play is going to add a whole extra dimension to football in the next few years and it’ll be really interesting to see what effect that has on the big clubs throughout Europe. Bangor Town v Skopje Utd isn’t going to be a great draw as a Champions League final!
I know you are a big fan of Mancini but, long term, if he can’t get you into the later stages of the competition do you agree that his position at the club will be in jeopardy?
I’d be gutted if Mancini ever left the club. He’s done more for us in the last three years than, well, most of our managers! Ok, its been made a lot easier by the vast sums of money he’s had, but you can’t just build a team on money, you have to have the consistency there from the top. I’m a great believer in giving the manager the tools and resources AND a long term commitment. I mean, just look at Sir Alex – if the United fans had had their way he’d have been gone in three years, rather then being (and my teeth are firmly gritted) the most successful manager in history. I hope the owner will take a long-term vision and not the same short-termism that Abrahmovic seems so keen on. So, in answer to your question, no I don’t think his position will be in jeopardy despite whatever rumours you’ll hear in newspapers, on Twitter, Facebook or Ceefax.
What have you made of your new signings so far?
This years new crop have been uninspiring so far. Rodwell has been injured, Sinclair has been bench bound and Javi Garcia has been disappointing, but I do believe he’s going to come good. However,19 year old Matija Nastasic has had some amazing games and I hope he has a long, long future with us. January’s transfer window is going to be very interesting – there are a few rumours circulating about who will leave – and a few about who will join (and there are some big names being mentioned).
How far do you think the team is from what you would like to see? Are there any positions that you think you need to strengthen?
We’re reliant on a few strong players at the moment, particularly in midfield. We suffered earlier this season when Silva was injured and it did leave us vulnerable. I am, though, very excited about the long term future with the massive investment in the Etihad campus. That can only be good for us as a team, Manchester as a city and the game as a whole.
What are your thoughts on Tevez – has all been forgiven?
Hmm, tricky one. I would guess we’ve gone through the same emotions most United fans would have gone through when Rooney threw his strop. You go through “why are you doing this to us?” to “you’re dead to us” to “hmm, I’ll never forgive you unless you play well” to “it’s like having a new player – love you Carlos!”
Forgiven, I’d say yes, forgotten, definitely not. He’s very much on probation with me, but he is doing a great job of winning me round!
Onto the game, who do you think will win and what will the score be?
I think it will be a very tight game – definitely not a repeat of last years 6-1 at OT or the 1-0 at the Etihad. I have to say City will win (and I honestly think they will) and I’ll predict 3-2 (Aguero, Tevez & Dzeko on as sub) and RVP and Mushy Pea for you. My biggest hope is that the refereeing is fair and there are no sendings off – they can (but not always!) ruin a game.
I dread to ask but what is your favourite memory from this fixture?
I’ll be kind and keep it to home victories – the way Kompany celebrated last year when he scored the winning goal was sublime. I typified the reasons why he’s our Captain and why he is so loved by the fans.
Where will you cause United the most problems?
Hmm. Difficult. As I’m writing this, Silva is reportedly injured and, if he doesn’t play then we will have issues in the midfield. That’s where the game will be won or lost. If I were a United fan, I’d worry about your defence but if you have Vidic back, as rumoured, then it will help you.
Aguero and Tevez playing, with Silva and Nasri is a formidable combination and that’s where we’ll hurt you. (Along with our (and I know I’m not meant to call him this) super-sub Dzeko!)
Which United players will cause you the most problems and, if you had the option, which United player would you like to see at City?
RVP and Vidic if he’s playing. I think most City fans would’ve liked to see RVP sign for us in the summer and he’s proven to be a great signing for you. As to who I’d like to see in our squad, Mushy Pea would be great. I’ll get some stick from City fans, but he’s is the type of player who keeps himself to himself and just gets on and plays and does the business.
Where will you finish this season?
Top of the league but on points, not goal difference.
Where will United finish this season?