Manchester City vs Manchester United: 5 Key Battles to Watch in Manchester Derby
It was always going to come down to this, wasn’t it?
The title race has been contested by the Premier League’s two Manchester clubs, Manchester United and Manchester City, in recent months, and the competition has made for some fascinating viewing along the way.
United are currently leading the way with three points, but a City home win would drag them back to the top spot, which they have occupied for many months this season.
So while the race for the European places and the relegation battles goes down to the wire, all eyes will be on the most exciting and important Manchester derby in recent memory.
On the pitch at City’s Etihad Stadium, Roberto Mancini’s men will have to face off Sir Alex Ferguson’s troops to set them on their way towards the Premier League title.
Here are five key battles that will take place on the Etihad pitch on Monday night.
Vincent Kompany vs. Wayne Rooney
Let’s start with City’s defence and what it will be coming up against.
First up is City captain Vincent Kompany, who has been a revelation in the Premier League since arriving from Anderlecht and has established himself as one of the best defenders in Europe.
His opponent for the night is none other than United talisman Wayne Rooney, who, with 26 goals, is second only to Robin van Persie in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot—and might very well have eclipsed the Arsenal striker come May.
Kompany’s steadiness and assured defending has been a key reason for City’s outstanding defensive record this season, but if anyone holds the key to unlocking a tight-knit defence, it is Wayne Rooney.
His blossoming partnership with Danny Welbeck has the potential to cause plenty of problems for City’s defence.
Gael Clichy vs. Antonio Valencia
Of course, United’s central striking pair isn’t the only part of United’s attack that City have to worry about.
On their left flank, Gael Clichy still has the considerable task of shutting down United’s wing wizard, Antonio Valencia, who, behind Rooney, has been United’s most important player this season.
Currently tied with David Silva at the top of the Premier League assists chart, he has directly created 13 United goals this season, a tidy 15 percent of their total haul in the league.
So Clichy will have his work cut out trying to stop the formidable threat of Valencia, which means he will also have to curb his own attacking tendencies.
But he will take some comfort knowing that if he does nullify Valencia, he will have cut off a key component in United’s attack.
David Silva vs. Paul Scholes
Then comes the battle of the pass masters.
David Silva has been outstanding in a City shirt this season, which he began by playing an instrumental role in the 6-1 demolition of United back in October last year.
His creativity, flair and dribbling have proved too much for many a defence this season, and his league-high assists count is a proof of his importance to Roberto Mancini’s side.
Opposite him is United’s very own pass master, Paul Scholes, who, since his return from retirement, has been heralded as the driving force behind United’s surge towards the top of the Premier League tree.
So this isn’t a case of Silva nullifying Scholes or vice versa.
Watching two of the league’s finest playmakers trying to outdo each other will provide plenty of entertainment in itself.
Sergio Aguero vs. Jonny Evans
Now onto City’s star-studded attack.
Sergio Aguero, without a doubt one of the most important summer signings in all of the Premier League last summer, is a single goal shy of equaling Fernando Torres’ record haul for a foreign player in his debut season in the Premier League—and should have run away with the PFA Young Player of the Year award as well.
He will be coming up against a much-matured Jonny Evans, whose performances this season—that 6-1 drubbing in the reverse fixture notwithstanding—have shown that Sir Alex Ferguson’s faith in his abilities had been right all along (and whose marked improvement has earned him a place in this observer’s Team of the Year).
Ninety minutes after kickoff, we could have a new holder of the debut season record—or we could have a new United legend.
Carlos Tevez vs. Rio Ferdinand
Speaking of United legends, how’s this for a matchup?
Carlos Tevez, who proved to be a hero for the Red Devils on so many occasions during his time at Old Trafford, has been quite the signing for City, if not for his prolific first two seasons, then for his antics this year.
He might be a royal pain for coaches to deal with off the pitch, but on it he is a manager’s dream—a striker so well-rounded and so capable of making a difference in the biggest matches that Roberto Mancini will surely start him on Monday.
His opponent, Rio Ferdinand, will know all about Tevez’s strengths and abilities, but whether or not the aging 33-year-old will be able to cope with his counterpart is another matter.
Ferdinand’s experience will be of utmost importance when dealing with Tevez, who has already struck a winner against his former club.
But don’t rule out another match-winning goal from Carlos Tevez. It’s been that kind of year.
If you liked this article, you might also be interested in 10 Bold Predictions for City Next Season. Please also check out my writer’s profile, where you can find more of my work, and my blog, The Red Armchair, for Liverpool match reactions and opinions.