United We Stand, Divided We Fall: The Intriguing Manchester Derby
While the papers in the past few days have chosen to effuse praise over the revival of Fernando Torres and in turn Liverpool's fortunes, the Manchester derby is likely to produce its fair share of news in the coming days. The sub-plot to this one is as intriguing as ever as City is decimated by team infighting, while United is still struggling to get its season started, so what better occasion to set this record straight than derby day.
It is interesting to note that these two teams have much to hate and envy about each other than ever before. While City fans will longingly stare at the huge line of trophies gleaming off the United cabinets, the Red Devils will be left gaping at the money available at the disposal of their cross-town rivals.
And then of course is the figure of Carlos Tevez—the scourge of United last year yet unable to lead City to any meaningful success. If there is one wish that any United fan could have, it would be for the Argentine to be ruled out of tomorrow night's game. United for its part will be hoping that Gary Neville spares them the embarrassment of kissing Paul Scholes or any of his teammates for that matter.
One of the reasons why this derby comes at the right time this year is the potential fallout the result may have on either team. While United maybe only two points behind leaders Chelsea at this stage, its season can be best described as a night out at Leicester Square—generally boring with rare excitement from time to time.
City on the other hand has been trying to hogwash the media into believing that the 'fighting spirit' shown by its players is an indication of the team's desire to win. The bare fact is that there are too many players in that dressing room with the egos the size of the Titanic and pays the size of well, the Titanic, to get along to create a sense of team harmony.
Roberto Mancini may have been adorned by the English media last season for his fashionable grey locks and his scarf (really, just because he is a cute foreigner does not mean he is right). But now he faces a barrage of questions every time he steps in front of the cameras from his team ethics to the colour of his latest car (read latest player acquisition).
The United Angle
Not too long ago, I wrote about whether it would prove to be another trophy-less season for Manchester United after its draw with Fulham. And the questions asked in that feature still persist as United has yet to prove they are ready for the big boys in this initial part of the season.
The fact that the team is unbeaten this season has been bandied around by Red Devil enthusiasts, while conveniently forgetting that they have forfeited a lead on three different occasions. United's habit of scoring late winners has been picked up by new boy Javier 'Chicarito' Hernandez, and against City the tradition of injury time goals provides him the perfect platform to show Wayne Who-oney.
The Hargreaves debacle in the midweek certainly didn't do Sir Alex Ferguson any good, and it will be interesting to see how he lines up at the City of Manchester stadium tomorrow night. Ryan Giggs is definitely out of the game and Nani is struggling for fitness as well.
On top of that last week's trip to Turkey saw United pick up more than the three points as many members of the team contracted a virus with Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Scholes all believed to be victims of the same. None of them are obviously eating their cereal unlike Didier Drogba, who has agreed to start against Fulham despite suffering from malaria. Yeah, the same thing that Cheryl Cole caught and thought she was about to die.
On the positive side, United has managed to win three games in a row in the league albeit two of them late on, but the win at Stoke will give the team belief they needed to get results away from home. If Berbatov can start for United, City's centerbacks will face a tough examination, especially with sprightly Chicharito ready to spring on every mistake or error.
The Divided Angle
It now seems to have been universally accepted that there is a discordant dressing room at Manchester City, and regardless of the assurances provided by the management and that the situation will continue or deteriorate further. Well, considering their riches, they had to have their problems claim the all knowing press.
But quite frankly it isn't too difficult to see what's happening behind the scenes at the Blues. The manager is not everyone's favourite to put it politely and has been entrusted with a squad that has been assembled more like the A-Team than a squad aiming to build for the future.
The old adage of 'money can't buy success' may be evident in City's performances this season, which have been littered with some classic YouTube footage of players fighting each other and the manger stepping in to hand them a katana to settle it like real men.
The main problem for City however, has been the dearth of goals having scored only 15 times this season with just under half of them coming from Tevez. For a team that has a strike force worth around £80 million this is a bad return to say the least. The three successive losses in the previous week showed that without their Argentine captain, City suddenly look very ordinary even with their other stars on the field.
With Mario Balotelli being ruled out of the game following his red card against West Brom, enfant terrible Emmanuel Adebayor may step in to occupy his place which means the fans in the fourth stand behind the goals should get their helmets out. David Silva has being the only shining light from City's extravagant summer spending and Mancini will hope that he manages to deliver.
The city midfield reads like the 'who's who of beat-down thugs' and Nigel De Jong and Yaya Toure will be looking to do some real damage to the United front line while creating space for their forwards. A classic case of hit n' run one may say.
It has been a while since these teams played out a draw in the league, in fact one has to be go back five years for such a result and tomorrow night it is more than likely that one set of fans in Manchester will be singing long into the night.
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