What can we expect from a Manchester United versus Manchester City game in the modern era?

Contested between, arguably, the two greatest managers in the world, two teams with several world class players between them seem to be very evenly matched but, as usual, there is still time for a spanner or two to be thrown into the works.

It already appears as though Manchester United will be without Henrikh Mhkitaryan through injury whilst on international duty. Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia will not be available due to arriving home the day before the game and Luke Shaw was sent home from the England squad as a precaution but should be OK to play.

Manchester City, on the other hand, seem to have emerged from the international break relatively unscathed. Sergio Agüero will be missing from the team on Saturday through suspension although he may have missed the game anyway due to a minor calf injury.

So of the two managers, only Jose Mourinho has reason to curse the international break coming, as it always does, at a crucial stage of the season for the clubs wishing to consolidate their places at the top of the table.

Irrespective of the players representing the two teams on Saturday, will the game live up to the hype? Derby games rarely do and most of them end in boring 0-0 or 1-1 draws or 1-0 wins for one side or the other.

Whilst this may be the biggest game of the season so far, history says that it probably won’t be the best. (Here’s an article from last year with a view on the “biggest” club games, and here’s one on the claims to be the biggest team)

Over the many years I have watched the derbies between these two clubs, only two stand out as having been great games to watch. There have been some good ones but there have been far too many of the boring ones and these are not generally remembered by the supporters of either team.

The first of the two I am thinking about was played back in 1971 at Maine Road and ended in a 3-3 draw. It was one of the most exciting games I had attended.

The second of the two was in 2009 when Michael Owen came off the bench to score the winner in a 4-3 victory for United at Old Trafford. By this time I had stopped going to the games as often so I could only watch on TV, but what a great game it was.

To view clips from either of these two games just click here.

Of the so-called “boring 0-0” derbies one does stick in my mind. It was 1970, at Maine Road and the game was memorable for two incidents involving George Best. One was a fantastic turn and shot which cannoned back off the crossbar and, had it gone in, would have deservedly won the game.

The other was a tackle on Glyn Pardoe which resulted in the City full back breaking his leg. I had a great view of both these incidents from the Kippax Street where I was stood with a few thousand other United fans. Best was unlucky on both occasions. The first for obvious reasons and the second because it was a 50-50 ball and was just one of those unfortunate things which happen in football. Nobody, including Pardoe, attached any blame to Best afterwards.

There was also the “Denis Law” derby of course. Again, not famous for the game itself, but rather for Law scoring against his former club. Many people think, wrongly, that this goal was responsible for relegating United. It wasn’t, as results elsewhere had already decided United’s fate.

So, from a pure football point of view, only two derbies were memorable to me. That statistic does not auger well for the upcoming game.

The other factor which suggests that the game will not be a classic is that neither manager will want to lose in his first Manchester derby. Will the fear of losing override the desire to win? Jose Mourinho would be the less happy with a draw as he is the home coach.

As far as Guardiola is concerned, he always expects his team to outscore the opposition. With these two mindsets which is more likely? A 1-0 win for United or a 3-4 win for City.

I think the prospect of losing will mean that both managers approach this game in a more cautious way than they would most others. With this in mind I have to say that I think we are in for a reasonably entertaining 0-0 or low scoring draw, which will, unfortunately, suit Chelsea!

  1. RedMe says:

    This game should never be played on the back of international game.


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