Manchester derby will split men from boys

2012-12-09 10:00

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Man United and Man City yet to hit their stride

Top spot in the Premier League will be up for grabs in today’s Manchester derby, but leaders Manchester United and champions Manchester City are both still to hit their stride this season.

The two teams are threatening to leave third-place Chelsea trailing in their wake, yet a glance at the league table reveals that all is not well either at Old Trafford or the Etihad Stadium.

United, who lead City by three points, have already been beaten by Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City, and have shipped 21 goals in 15 games, more at this stage of the campaign than in any season since 2001/02.

While City boast the last unbeaten record in English league football, they have drawn six times and were eliminated from all European competition on Tuesday after losing 1-0 at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

“We are both in a similar situation,” says Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs.

“We (United) are in a good position in the league, but haven’t hit the form we did in parts last season. That can be frustrating because we want perfection.”

City drew first blood in last season’s title race with a 6-1 win at Old Trafford that sent shock waves around Europe, before a 1-0 success at the Etihad in April took them to the brink of the championship.

Giggs (39) will be making a record 36th derby appearance if he takes to the field today, but City’s Brazilian right-back, Maicon, will be sampling the occasion for the first time.

A close-season signing from Inter Milan, Maicon is a veteran of the Milan derby and the Belo Horizonte clash between Atletico Mineiro and his former club, Cruzeiro, and he is eager to experience what Manchester has to offer.

“My strongest memory of the Milan derbies was the day Inter won 4-0 (in 2009-10), and we also won the Champions League in the same season,” he said.

“It was a great game, a great derby, difficult to forget. All over the world, the derby is a different game to any other.

“It is a passionate game, whether you are in Manchester, Milan or Brazil, and I am sure Sunday will be just the same,” he said.

United midfielder Tom Cleverley will undergo a scan on a calf injury to find out if he will be fit to play, but wingers Antonio Valencia and Nani are both out, as is midfielder Anderson.

Nemanja Vidic and Shinji Kagawa are rated as doubtful.

Mancini hopes to be able to recall Spanish midfielder David Silva after a hamstring injury.

James Milner and Gael Clichy could also be in contention, but Aleksandar Kolarov has been ruled out with an ankle problem.

- Sapa - AFP

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