Manchester United-Manchester City: Red Half Should Reign on Sunday

Nathan LoweAnalyst INovember 28, 2008

Timing and circumstance are cooperating in perfect accord for a United result over City on Sunday.

Alex Ferguson's side are coming off consecutive unsavory results and performances two weeks after losing tragically to Arsenal at Ashburton Grove.  A nominal pounding of Stoke did little to quench United's boiling rapacity, nor did their hard-fought blank with Aston Villa or their customary, friendly nil-nil with Villareal.

When United themselves were tore up by Arsenal, it was largely along the Red's right flank. Gary Neville was left to handle both Nasri and Clichy as the right-sided midfielder, Ronaldo, was playing forward to link counter-attacks. Neville and United were exposed; the introduction of Rafael not only provided their only goal but served to finally stymy the Gunner's artillery.

Rafael and Evra would be ideal candidates to deal with City's two prodigious wingers, the reborn Shaun Wright-Phillips and the ever-dancing Robinho.  Despite scoring on his City debut against United last year, Benjani is unlikely to threaten an in-form Vidic. Stephen Ireland is another City player on song lately, and Fletcher would be expected to hamper his influence, with either Carrick or Anderson deployed to bring the attack forward.

Up front, the return of Berbatov inevitably adds several angles to United's attack with Rooney the likely benefactor. The Englishman is focused on the game, stating Friday: "It will be nice to show them who are the kings of Manchester. I missed both derbies last season and that was really frustrating..."

Rooney added quite certainly: "It doesn't irritate us that City are getting all this publicity. If they were winning trophies it would irritate me but while they are still lingering in mid-table I am not really too bothered about it."

A positive result portends elsewhere in the squad. Ronaldo, as ever, appears absolutely on the verge of mania if he doesn't score some goals fast. Ronaldo seems to prefer attacking down our left-side and, if in position Sunday, should have joy against City's young right-back Zabaleta, while Evra, Vidic, Fletcher, and Park Ji-Sung are also enjoying spells of form for United.

United will look to swashbuckle through a City defense sometimes found frail and lacking confidence, with Ben Haim and Richard Dunne each making clownish mistakes throughout their four consecutive losses prior to last weekend's win over Arsenal.

Man City are still basking in the afterglow of both the Arsenal victory and Thursday's unexpected 2-0 result at Schalke, guaranteeing advancement from the UEFA Cup group stage. Robinho and Shaun Wright-Phillips are twin blue angels of tricks and pace, and each are likely to expose United's outside defense at least once. Elano and Stephen Ireland should also both feature throughout.

It should be a high-scoring affair, with United having the clear impetus to defeat the side who overcome them quite heroically last year, as City did the double over their more illustrious, more successful neighbors. Coupled with the past two weeks of indifferent results, United are focused to start a long run of attacking football, and its inevitable results, starting Sunday against their despised rival.