The biggest match of the
English Premier League season is a table topping, six-pointer. Its result will
echo down the ages and play a BIG part in deciding this year’s Champions. Oh
and it’s the Manchester derby.
This United versus City,
Manchester derby is a football match that needs no introduction, but throws up
much to talk about (and bet on).
Top of the table Manchester
City (who have won all but one game this season) take the five mile journey
across the city to the home of Manchester United (who have won all but two
games this season). Both Manchesters are undefeated in the league so far and
United have the truly remarkable record of winning every single home match for
19 consecutive games, that’s 19 home wins on the bounce!
Something’s GOTTA give
When runs like these collide
something is going to have to change. When United’s positively ridiculous run
of taking three points from every single league home game, meets City’s undefeated
run, there can be only one record left intact come the final whistle! United’s
last non-win in the league at Old Trafford was a 2-2 draw against the mighty
West Brom on the 16th October 2010. Regardless of what happens on Sunday,
United have gone a whole year undefeated at home in the league! Their only
other non-wins at Old Trafford were both Champions league draws, a 0-0 against
Rangers in September and a 1-1 draw against Valencia on the 7th of December,
For the record, United’s last
home defeat was a 1-2 reverse at the hands of Chelsea, back in the 2009-10
season. The Londoners went on to pip United to the title (by a single point)
that year. There are two ways of looking at this run; firstly simply back
United to win the match (odds vary but they’re hovering around the 11/10 mark)
or alternatively if City do put one over on United, then back the noisy
neighbours to lift the Premier league trophy (like Chelsea did). At present
they’re at 9/4 to wrest the trophy from the Old Trafford trophy cabinet, where
it’s worn its contours into the carpeting.
United’s own Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha (that’s Nani to you and me)
said "When we play at home it is very hard to beat us. That is why we are
so confident. With a record like ours, we should be.” He has a point.
As it stands
At present City and United
are separated by just two points at the top of the Premier League, although it
could be argued that the difference lies in the fact that United faced the
trickier Liverpool at Anfield in their last game (which ended 1-1), compared to
City’s latest (4-1, as predicted) walk over at home against Aston Villa.
A home win would reverse the teams’ positions while an away win would stretch
City’s lead at the top of the table to five points. You’d be forgiven for
thinking that City are the only team who really stand a chance of usurping
United’s spot as Champions, yet their still not favourites to lift the EPL
trophy. The pre-season action saw United face (FA Cup winners) City in the 2011
Community Shield, United won that match 3–2. If you fancy a re-run of that
scoreline you can get 22/1 on it.
No Demolition Derby
This derby, like all derbies
is a tasty local clash, but for arguably the first time ever the second team in
Manchester is competing with United as (almost equals). City have debatably the
better squad, but still United's strength as a team, pedigree, history and
experience of winning (plus the aforementioned home record) would suggest that
they will have the edge over City. A Blue win is offered up at soccer odds of 14/5.
City may have buckled under
United in the Community Shield, but since then they have looked a sharper outfit
and cultivated their own knack of winning games with under-par performances. Not
to mention that their last minute (last kick) win over Villarreal on Tuesday
night (almost as predicted) will have enthused them with the “we can do it” mentality that has seen
United lift so many trophies. The club currently holds the record for the most
FA Cup triumphs with 11, the most Premier League titles with 12, and the
highest number of top-flight titles with 19. City’s FA Cup win last season was
their first touch of silver in 35 years. They have won the League only twice,
the last time being in 1967-68.
Looking backward; history
Out of all the meeting
between these two sides (of which there have been 160) United have won 67 and
City 43 (the other 50 being draws). That’s 43% of the wins being Red wins
compared to 27% for City. What’s more United’s trophy haul puts City’s cabinet
to shame. The Blues have won five FA Cups (including the sole trophy in their
cupboard) two league cups and no European trophies. United by comparison have
won pretty much everything, several times.
A little while ago this match
would have been all about that man Carlos Tevez who left United for City in a tempestuous
£47million transfer. The Argentinian has scored 53 goals in 91 appearances
since joining Man City. However Tevez has fallen from favour with City due to
his (alleged) refusal to take to the pitch in City’s Champions League match
against Bayern Munich when his team was 2-0 down. The sulky Argentinian was duly
suspended for two-weeks and manager Roberto
Mancini has said that he will never pick him again. His suspension
served, the wantaway player now trains alone and is only mentioned in terms of saleability. It’s worth mentioning that Brazilian side
Corinthians (who Tevez played for between 2005 and 2006, and lifted the
Brasileirao with) have made enquiries to sign the forward.
The Times they are a-changing
City are a new side these
days due to the cash injection from their oil rich owners. While that sort of
wealth (the sort that can bench a £47miillion player like Tevez) can tempt big
names, the pressure is on for results and trophies. If City don’t “show
improvement” against United the question will be raised of “how long will the owners
keep throwing money at an also-ran team”?
It would be great to see a goal heavy game, like the classic 4-3 of a
few seasons ago and if you reckon we’ll see a seven goal stunner you can pick
up 80/1 on United winning 4/3 and 125/1 on City winning by the same score.
I certainly do not think you
will see these teams going for broke though. I am putting money on Manchester
City playing it tight. City midfielder De Jong is eyeing the match with relish,
“It’s a massive game for both of us and everyone believes we can win." He
added that the league position favours the Blues," We're going down there
as number one and the aim is to stay number one". The FA Cup Semi-final win over United last
season at Wembley, that preceded City winning their first trophy in a
generation, proves that this game is no foregone conclusion. De Jung knows that
City can win the match, “We proved last season that we could beat them, so we
don’t have anything to prove.” That game ended 1-0 to City and if you fancy
that score it’s available at 12/1.
Don’t forget that United have
Nani, who has scored three times in as many games against City and is well up
for the game, “All the players want to play in these games, especially me. My
confidence for these games is high and I feel comfortable in these sorts of
games.” Nani is at 9/1 to get the first or the last goal, and he’s at 5/2 to
score at any point. The Portuguese winger, also dabbled in a little of his
manager’s mind games when he claimed that the Premiership wasn’t just a two
horse race. Nani claimed it is too early to say if the title race will be
dominated by the two Manchester clubs, "City are (just) one of the teams
who have been doing fantastically well since the season started. But there are
a lot of teams who are doing well and we need to be aware of them. Chelsea have
been excellent from the start."
A highly telling pair of odds
is that United winning by four or more goals is at “just” 14/1 while City
winning by the same margin is at 50/1, so don’t expect a Demolition Derby.
While neither side have lost a league game all season, City have endured a loss
in their champions league campaign. Looking at the sides’ recent run (in all
competitions) City have won four and lost one, scoring 12 and conceding just
four). United have won twice and drawn three times, they’ve scored nine and let
in five. Juggling those figures around like a mad mathematician and adding up
all those goals would see City on 17 and United on 13, as that score won’t
happen, you might like to take those numbers down to bite size. And roughly
that would work out as a 4-3 win for City, not very likely either. The surest
bets are on backing the correct winning margin. In each of the last five
meetings the winner has been decide by a single goal. Therefore I’d recommend a
couple of quid on United by one, at 3/1 and City by one is at 5/1. Just to play
it safe. Also avoid 0-0, this game screams GOALS! A scoreless draw is high odds
at 12/1, but you might like a sneaky bet on a draw at 12/5, and if you’re that
way inclined go for 2-2 at 11/1.
What’s the time Mr Ref?
Another trend in these derby
matches is the late goal. In five of the last eight meetings there has been a
goal scored after 75 minutes, including the last three at Old Trafford. The proliferation
of late United goals gave rise to something called Fergie Time. It has been
claimed that Ferguson's intimidation of referees results in overtly generous
injury time in matches where Manchester United are trailing. The phrase
pre-dates City’s rise to prominence (maybe even dating back to 2004). In the
spirit of fairness it’s worth mentioning that a game that sees United behind
usually features incidents that would result in additional injury time in a
Fergie time or not, expect a
great game with goals and don’t go anywhere in the final 15 minutes.
Prediction: United win 2-1, thanks to a late goal (at 15/2).