Not many people believed Sir Alex Ferguson when he said that last week’s game against Liverpool was one of the “biggest of the season”. Everyone knew he had October 23rd circled on his calendar, a game that could play a huge role in where the Premier League trophy ends up in May. Ahead of this weekend’s big game between the two halves of Manchester, let’s take a look at how the teams stack up.
It’s no contest here. Manchester City has started to challenge the big boys since the new owners took over, but their 2 League titles (none since 1968) and 5 FA Cup trophies are dwarfed by Manchester United’s 19 League titles, 11 FA Cups, and 3 Champions League crowns.
Both teams won their respective Champions League games this week, and both are undefeated through 8 games in the league. United won the last game between the two, triumphing 3-2 in an exciting Community Shield game to open the season.
City has access to the kind of funds they never would have dreamed of 13 years ago when they were in the 3rd division. They have systematically bought dozens of star players from a very expensive shopping list over the past few seasons. United creates a lot of revenue as a global brand, but also has a lot debt. With no deep-pocketed owners, they don’t spend as freely as their neighbors.
Success is the status quo at Manchester United, and has been for nearly two decades. The United players have shown they have the right mindset to triumph over a long, 38-game season, as well as perform well in big games. City has stockpiled an impressive list of players, many of whom have won significant titles with other teams. But they are still in the process of building a culture of success throughout the team. That said, their players know how to get up for a big game, so expect the best from the boys in blue on Sunday.
Over 70,000 fans will pack Old Trafford on Sunday, cheering United and jeering City.
This game will showcase two of the best young goalkeepers in the world. Both Joe Hart and David De Gea are excellent shot-stoppers, but neither is the finished product; they both make the occasional error.
As much attention as the City attack gets, Roberto Mancini has built a fairly solid defense, with Vincent Kompany emerging as one of the game’s best center-backs. But the back four can be left exposed at times by a midfield that likes to push forward and attack. United’s back four has been a revolving door recently due to injuries, but young players like Smalling, Jones, and Evans have performed well so far when called upon. With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic both expected to start on Sunday, look for United to be solid at the back.
City has such a wide array of midfielders to choose from, it will be interesting to see who Roberto Mancini starts the game with on Sunday. David Silva has consistently looked like a world-class player since his move from Valencia, and with a supporting cast including Yaya Toure and the formidable Nigel De Jong, it will be a tough test for the Red Devils. Sir Alex Ferguson has been trying to find the right balance in the United midfield since the glory days of Giggs, Keane, Scholes, and Beckham, but is still looking. There are a lot of options to choose from, but United has not had the “X-factor” in midfield for a while.
It looked for the first few weeks of the season like Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero were going to make this year’s scoring title their own personal battle. Both would be excused if they had cooled down in the last couple of weeks, given Aguero’s injury and Rooney’s well-documented on and off the field issues. But they both scored game-winners in the Champions League this week, with Aguero scoring late for City and Rooney netting two penalty kicks for United. No doubt each one of the main men will be tightly marked by the opposing defenders, so much of the burden may fall on the supporting cast. Nani and Ashley Young are more wingers than goal-scorers, so their job will be to provide good service to Rooney, but each one is capable of scoring himself as well. Chicharito proved again last weekend that he is one of the best finishers in the world, and he could be the difference coming off the bench later in the game. City has more goal-scoring forwards than United, but with Carlos Tevez is still sitting out, the supporting role will fall to either Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli. Both have scored plenty of goals this year, and each could make a good case to start on Sunday. Balotelli’s unbalanced temperament means Dezeko would be the safer choice, but Balotelli might be just crazy enough to challenge United’s defense.
It will be a close game with both sides having some good chances. United will win 2-1 on a late Chicharito goal.