City moving to the top of the league last weekend has given this derby an extra edge, and City a psychological boost. United will be desperate to get back on top but Roberto Mancini’s side have the opportunity to show they are worthy of top spot.
Mancini was used to leading from the front when winning Serie A titles with Inter, and it’s an amazing place to be for City fans unused to such an experience. For one thing, it would make a draw a more satisfactory result.
Mancini says he wants to win, but he said the same when we went to the Emirates last season and barely left our own half. No doubt we will look to score at Old Trafford but there is likely to be solidity in the midfield, and some caution in the full-backs.
The enthusiasm of Richards and the pace of Clichy should see them rotated back into the starting line-up. Both will look to get forward when they can, while this is a big test for Clichy defensively.
So far the Frenchman has proved a shrewd signing and if he can keep Nani quiet then his resurgence will be complete. Of course Nani was left on the bench alongside Rooney and Hernandez when United went to Anfield last week. Somehow it’s hard to see Ferguson starting with Wellbeck as a lone striker on Sunday, despite what he said about Liverpool being the bigger fixture.
After Dzeko’s poor performance against Villarreal, Balotelli is likely to return. Doubts remain over Aguero’s fitness and the Argentine may be better coming off the bench.
Midfield is the area where Mancini has to get the balance right. If he’s fully fit, then de Jong is a necessity. Mancini often goes with the experience of Barry, yet the pace of these games often leaves him struggling to remain effective for 90 minutes.
Milner lacks the positional discipline, but has greater stamina, is more progressive and is in good form. For such a heavyweight encounter Yaya may reprise his attacking role. Silva is sure to be on one side, but who on the other?
Nasri is the big name, but can the Frenchman be relied upon to deliver? Adam Johnson would give Evra something to think about defensively. If Barry starts then Milner would add more solidity if played on the flank, but at the price of leaving the midfield lacking in pace.
A cameo off the bench from Hargreaves, helping to close out a victory would be especially sweet.
If City can start the game as well as they did last season then there is every chance of success. Retaining possession and not letting United build up a head of steam is vital at Old Trafford.
We’ll certainly need to play better than in the Charity Shield. The good news is that we’re capable of performing much better. To get a result in this fixture would confirm our title credentials.
Blue Days line-up:
Richards – Kompany – Lescott – Clichy
de Jong – Milner
Silva – Y Toure – Nasri
Prediction: 2-0 to City.