Man United v MAN CITY – PREVIEW: Could This Be Tévez’s Destiny?
Hyperbole is an interesting word. Defined as an extreme exaggeration for emphasis, few could argue that it would be a hyperbole to describe the second leg of this Carling Cup tie, held at Old Trafford, as the biggest match in Manchester City’s recent history. As would befit a Marks and Spencer advert, this is not just a Carling Cup tie, this is a Manchester derby, semi-final second leg Carling Cup tie.
Levels of anticipation, tension and anxiety have never been higher for any match in recent memory, with the close rivalry reaching fever pitch a week ago. After a pulsating yet thoroughly nerve-wracking first leg at the City of Manchester Stadium, the Blues head into this leg with a slender 2-1 lead, courtesy of a brace of goals from former United star Carlos Tévez. The utter joy and euphoria with which he celebrated his strikes confirmed that the Argentine forward is truly committed to the City cause and the fist pumping and mocking hand gestures in the general direction of Gary Neville endeared him further more to the City faithful. Never short of a word or two, the, ahem, good looking full-back had written in a newspaper column that he supported his manager’s decision not to acquire the permanent services of the Argentinean forward; comments which incensed and provoked Tévez into producing his swashbuckling performance.
During the past week, City’s gaffe-prone Chief Executive Garry Cook further heightened the stakes by declaring in a New York saloon that City would be the biggest and best club in the world, whilst Sir Alex Ferguson and Kia Joorabchian have also said their two pennies worth on the matter. Extra police are expected to be on patrol for this match, after the despicable behaviour of the visiting fans to Eastlands last Tuesday, as a small number of ‘supporters’ tried to smuggle darts and golf balls, to name but a couple objects, into the ground, with the sole intention of injuring others.
Tévez sent a clear message to United’s hierarchy after scoring his second goal against his former club
Roberto Mancini, having taken charge of just five City games prior to the first leg, has already stamped his mark on the squad. Recalling players such as Martin Petrov and Javier Garrido, who were exiled into the wilderness by Mark Hughes, along with the brave introduction of youngsters like Dedryck Boyata and Abdisalam Ibrahim has been an inspired move, and the astute tactical awareness of the Italian is in stark contrast to former incumbent Hughes. Notably in the first leg, the languid and stylish Mancini reverted from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 formation, with Pablo Zabaleta occupying a plethora of roles during the match. This versatility and ability to adapt to the situation will prove necessary, not just for the Argentine, but for the whole squad, as the away goals rule (which will come into force after extra-time) will have a determining impact on the way we play. Brazilian superstar Robinho may take part in his final City game tomorrow with his loan move to Santos expected to be announced in the coming days.
On the back of the FA Cup victory over Scunthorpe, Mancini’s sixth win in seven games, the manager has a tricky selection dilemma for this derby match. Ivory Coast defender Kolo Touré is expected to return to the side, provided he overcomes fatigue, after his side were unexpectedly beaten by Algeria in the quarter finals of the African Cup of Nations, whilst Martin Petrov, outstanding in the win on Sunday and scorer of a few goals since Mancini’s arrival, looks set to be relegated to the substitute’s bench, with the running power, tenacity and general work-rate of Pablo Zabaleta expected to be preferred. Emmanuel Adebayor, who witnessed the tragedy on board the Togo bus, has returned to City after suffering from shock following the despicable attack and will take his place on the bench. After all he has gone through recently, it would signify partial closure of the incident for the striker if he were to score and send City through to the final. Mancini did suffer one setback though in midweek, with the news that new signing Patrick Vieira is still unable to play, as he continues his recuperation from a calf strain.
For all the talk from Sir Alex Ferguson that the Carling Cup was the least of their worries and the trophy at the bottom of their priorities, he fielded his strongest available side in the first leg. Wayne Rooney, usually one who is exempt from Carling Cup duty, was asked to lead the line on his own, although he is sure to receive more help this time around, from either Mame Biram Diouf, Dimitar Berbatov or Michael Owen, whilst Ryan Giggs captained the side. However, for this leg, United’s manager is faced with a tricky selection dilemma. A visit to the Emirates to face an Arsenal side brimming with confidence despite their FA Cup defeat at the hands of Stoke lies just a few days after this encounter, so Ferguson may be tempted to rest a couple of his senior players. Whatever team he picks is sure to cause City problems and there will be no let up in intensity from the hosts.
Ladies man Rooney scored four at the weekend and will be the principal threat to City’s defence
My Team (4-5-1) (but 4-3-3 when going forward)
Onuoha Touré Kompany Barry
SWP Zabaleta De Jong Ireland Bellamy
Subs: Taylor, Richards, Sylvinho, Petrov, Robinho, Benjani, Adebayor
My Prediction: Man United 2 – 1 Man City
The pessimist (but hopefull not realist) in me prevails in this prediction. City will no doubt battle bravely against an Alamo-esque siege from United, and will manage to take the tie into extra-time, during which, I hate to say it, United will prove too strong and score another to send them through. Goals to be scored by Craig Bellamy, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen, with drama sure to surround Carlos Tévez, as he misses a 90th minute penalty to put City in the final!
What do you think will happen on Wednesday? Give your opinions below. Thanks for reading!