The clock is ticking down to the start of the most talked about Manchester derby in years.
A resurgent city have emerged like a phoenix from the flames when compared to the club of five years ago that looked as if fate would retire the blue half of Manchester to a Leeds like spiralling demise into the lower divisions. Then Sven arrived under new ownership with a pocket full of cash and City have never looked back.
Now with yet another owner armed with even deeper pockets, Mark Hughes has built a squad that reads like a fantasy football team and so far any doubts over his ability to gel the players into a winning unit have been brushed aside with a blemishless record in the league so far this season.
On the red side of the equation, United are a team in transition after the departure of the Ballon d’Or winner and one Carlos Tevez. But despite this the red machine rolls on as Fergusons drive for success still burns as brightly as ever. Ferguson has had a lot to say about City in recent times and appears to be relishing in the prospect of a more legitimate competition coming from the other side of town. He knows that the United fans would love nothing more their side to be the first to knock City off their new found pedestal.
Recent events have conspired to see City’s in form striker Emmanuel Adebayor suspended from the game after his antics against Arsenal last time out. Robinho and Santa Cruz will also miss out through injury with Tevez rated as ‘severely doubtful’ to recover in time to play (which is manager speak for expect to see him on the bench at least). This means City are certainly not the same prospect they could be going forward, but none the less still possess significant talent in the squad and coupled with the fact that they did not appear in European competition this week, will be very well prepared both physically and tactically for the fixture on Sunday.
United are largely injury free going into the match, with Rio Ferdinand the only lingering doubt. He was rested for the recent Champions League match in Turkey and baring any more setbacks in training today, the smart money will be on him taking his place in the defence next to Vidic come the first whistle. Both teams go into the game with a point to prove, tensions will be high and both sets of supporters will be desperate to take home the bragging rights at least until the next time the teams meet.
With home advantage and a clear bill of health you have to fancy United to prevail in this one. Arsenal can however testify to the Blues new found resilience even if this time around City aren’t quite the same force on paper as they were that day.
United suffered an early season shock with defeat to Burnley, certainly three points dropped in their view and something Ferguson will be very acutely aware of. United can’t afford too many more slip ups as they chase their fourth league title in a row and City will be only too happy to put another dent in that challenge. Ferguson’s recent comments about City provide further proof if any were needed that they are to be taken very seriously from now on. The Scotsman known to only engage in his fabled ‘mind games’ with those he deems as worthy.
A great match in prospect then come 13:30 (GMT) on Sunday, I for one will be glued to proceedings eager to see which side can set down the first marker in a war that looks set to rage for many more seasons yet. It can’t come fast enough..