Manchester: Title contenders City host champions United in the 166th Manchester derby All eyes on managers Pellegrini and Moyes ahead of their maiden face-off.
It`s a strange weekend for David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini as they take their assigned positions at the Etihad on Sunday evening. Both are new at their respective clubs, but certainly familiar with the atmosphere surrounding a derby clash. They have been there, experienced that. But the pressure associated with their first-ever Manchester derby is enormous.
Wayne Rooney might still consider a United-Liverpool fixture to be the biggest, but City have made more noise than any of United`s neighbours. Questions will, therefore, be asked and explanations sought. Every move will be scrutinised in this clash between the champions and the title contenders.
It`s a far cry from what this fixture used to mean in the late 1980s.
When Alex Ferguson took charge of United in November 1986 and guided his boys to victory in his maiden derby clash in 1987, we were looking at two very different teams. City were battling relegation, while United were struggling to get into the top half of the table.
Nearly three decades on, United are backing that Moyes to fill in the void left by Ferguson. And Pellegrini is hoping this isn`t a game of musical chairs. Both clubs have taken different paths to success. Ferguson was at the helm for over a quarter of a century.
City have had 15 managers in the same period.
Moyes would say he has been a part of many a fierce derby. Yes, the Merseyside derby (Liverpool-Everton) has seen three times as many red cards as the Manchester derby. But the overriding point is that no Merseyside clash during Moyes`s tenure was a season-defining for Everton or Liverpool.
Pellegrini says derbies in Argentina are the most fierce. And he also understands the importance of the El Clasico. But the people of Manchester can be unruly. Last year, City goalkeeper Joe Hart had to guarding the post as well as Rio Ferdinand, who was targetted by the Etihad faithful. So let`s not even talk about the security arrangements in place this time around.
Pellegrini will welcome back David Silva. He will also be pleased with the fact that captain Vincent Kompany clocked useful minutes in the mid-week Champions League fixture. That 4-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen, the one in which Wayne Rooney`s announced his return to form, should encourage Moyes. Both teams go into the match with into Etihad with exactly seven points from four matches. They`ll certainly go all out on Sunday. A potential six-pointer, perhaps?
So, as we sit back to enjoy the 166th Manchester derby, there is an air of familiarity surrounding the contest. But you cannot discount the cloud of unfamiliarity in the dugouts.
We're building him (RvP) up now because of the World Cup. It’s a pity but we have to or he’ll never be fit.
Louis van Gaal