Manchester United started the season in formidable form, dispatching the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea in free scoring entertaining style. They made successful summer signings and were offering a very fluid and youthful approach.
In the last few weeks though United haven’t looked quite as unbeatable. Draws against Stoke and Liverpool sandwiched an unconvincing win against Norwich. Their Champions League results have been more concerning with the Red Devils needing two penalties against Romanian minnows Oțelul Galați just to make it one win in three games.
Defensive injuries are not an issue for United anymore but a lack of creativity has been. They were quite negative at Anfield last weekend but do not expect to see that on Sunday. United can be a starkly different force at home than they are away. 16 goals in just four home games will testify to that. The red side of Manchester will attack their rivals at Old Trafford, whoever they may indeed be.
Then there is the question of their talisman – Wayne Rooney. Somewhat of a wounded animal at the moment. ‘Wazza’ started the season with a much improved hairline and absolutely bags of goals. However due to an overgenerous father and overaggressive ‘tackle’ in Montenegro all eyes will be on Rooney for the next few weeks. It says something about his state of mind that he only made the bench against Liverpool. He did score two goals in Romania albeit penalties and much good that United produce goes through Rooney. This is a huge game and it will be interesting to see if Rooney can provide the quality and enigmatic leadership that we know he can.
What about the ‘noisy neighbours’? Well they are neighbours and they are kind of noisy but City have grown beyond this nickname given to them by SAF. They have now joined United in the Champions League and like their rivals they haven’t had the greatest of starts in Europe. They are though, unlike United, rookies at Europe's top table.
The same cannot be said for the league though. City top the Premier League having failed to win only one of their first eight games. They haven’t exactly been grinding results out too much but they haven’t needed to. The blue side have scored at least two goals in each of their games as well showing they are dangerous all over the pitch, be it home or away.
The behaviour of Carlos Tevez has allowed other players to shine and likes of Aguero, Dzeko and Silva have been blindingly dazzling. He allowed them to shine, get it? City have basically been unstoppable particularly when going forward. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? It is going to be fantastic to find out.
The outcome of this match will give a key indicator to how primed City are for a real title push this season. Lots of talk from both teams has gone on but talk is cheap. Seems silly claiming something related to United or City is cheap. The talk will not matter on Sunday though when we are hopefully treated to a footballing feast.
Sir Alex Ferguson stated today that he welcomes the City challenge. He has seen many teams and managers come to town and he has always seen off their challenge to United’s dominance. Dalglish, Wenger, Houllier, Mourinho, Benitez, Ancelotti etc etc. They all threatened Ferguson and United’s control of the Premier League and were successful at times but this success was temporary and not sustained. As Ferguson acts in the twilight of his career then surely Mancini and Manchester City will provide his last main threat. It should be thrilling to see who can come out on top tomorrow and in the battle for dominance in Manchester and England.
52 goals in 16 games from these two suggests that there should at least be one thing tomorrow. Goals! Too often though matches of these types are overhyped and they do not live up to their billing. So this writer for now will put the proverbial sock in it. But who are kidding, it will be fantastic. Feel free to blame me if it isn't.