It’s been given a big build-up, but the day is finally upon us – it’s Sunday 23rd October which can only mean one thing: the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. The two top teams in the league, both of them unbeaten, go head-to-head for a win which would mean so much more than the three points on offer. But who will come out on top? Sam Cale and David Segar are here to help you decide, with Sam arguing the case for Manchester United and David shouting the odds for Manchester City. As ever, Chris Bryant is the referee.
CB: Afternoon gentlemen. League games don’t get much bigger than this, with City emerging as real contenders for the league crown this year. But are they really good enough to beat the defending champions at home?
SC: I don’t think so, with United’s home advantage proving the telling factor here. With the Manchester derby increasingly becoming the biggest game in the Premier League, it looks likely to be a nervy game between the two teams. But with United having won the last 24 out of 25 league games at Old Trafford, they should have the edge. The Red Devils have also won seven out of the last ten meetings, with City just winning two in cup competitions. With the weight of history fully behind the home side, I’m backing them to come out on top of a close encounter at evens.
DS: That’s all in the past – yes United have an impressive recent record against City but this is a different team. In years gone by this has been a giant versus a poor relation, then it was a giant against a ‘noisy neighbour’, now it can be argued to finally be a giant against a giant. For the first time in decades, City go to their bitter rivals with many believing they have a good chance of success. City have been exciting this season, and deservedly sit atop the Premier League. While United have also shown sparkling play this campaign, they have looked quite vulnerable in recent games. Even after the cash arrived, you got the feeling City still had an inferiority complex against Fergie’s charges, but the 1-0 FA Cup semi-final win in April turned the tide and now it seems Mancini’s men have the belief they can beat United. So 13/5 for an away win looks a great price.
CB: Much has been written about the various tactical options at City boss Roberto Mancini’s disposal and the potential impact his decisions can have on the game. How do you see things shaping up in the early stages?
SC: With City closing the gap between the two sides I’m sure it will be closely fought and, although for me the Citizens remain in United’s shadow, I can’t see Fergie’s men running away with it. I can see it being especially tight going into half time, with neither team on top, before United’s ‘never say die’ attitude wins them the three points and returns them to the top of the table. The draw at half time and United to win at full time is priced at 9/2, and is also their most popular double result having happened in six out of the last twenty occasions. So that looks like a good bet to me.
DS: Mancini has a reputation of being overly cautious, especially given the attacking talent at his disposal, so a cagey opening is the obvious call to make. But it’s also the wrong call. This season has seen a change in Mancini’s outlook, and City have been scoring goals for fun. In five out of their eight league games so far they have been leading at half time, and have not been behind in any of them. Looking at the three matches where they were level, all were 0-0, and all were against sides who parked the bus. That bus was then broken in half in the second period. United won’t be that negative, which suggests City can get at them. With 29/10 that City lead at half time on offer, and considering United nearly always play better in the second half, that’s surely too tempting to turn down.
CB: Well a clear dividing line there – not only are you differing on the outcome (which is a given), but also on the type of game we can expect. How many goals can you see there being in the match?
SC: Like I have said, I predict it will be a close game, as I’m sure most people will, and there will certainly be no more than three goals. But with under 3.5 goals at 19/50, a more interesting bet that has stood out to me is for any team to win by exactly one goal difference at 27/20. In seven of the last ten games between the sides, this has been the result.
DS: However much City fans might want to, no-one could forget that incredible 4-3 two seasons ago which saw Michael Owen score a dramatic late winner (is there any other kind at Old Trafford?). This game has produced some incredible drama down the years, and with two teams who have been so imperious going forward, but still showing naivety and nerves at the back, this game surely has goals written all over it. In their eight league games so far United have scored 25, while City have bagged 27. When you have two attacks that have scored a combined 52 goals in 16 games, there will need to be some heroic backline work done to avoid a glut of goals. That’s why I’d look seriously at the 33/4 on offer for there to be more than 5.5 goals in the game.
CB: And the final score will be…
SC: My prediction is a repeat of last year’s game at Old Trafford, where Wayne Rooney’s stunning overhead kick ensured United won 2-1. The repeat is priced at 15/2. Crucially, this stays consistent with my view that there will be under four goals and just one goal between the two teams.
DS: Although United have only conceded six league goals, David de Gea has had to make more saves than any other keeper in the Premier League this season. Plus, if Basle can score three at Old Trafford, then there’s no reason why City can’t take advantage of a United defence which hasn’t looked too solid in recent times. The Blue half of Manchester may even produce a dramatic reversal of the famous 4-3, but with so many possibilities I’d cover myself a little. I do believe City will win, but United will score at least one or two. That’s why I’ve been tempted by the multiple correct score option of City winning either 3-2, 4-2, 4-3 or 5-1 at 35/2. Whatever happens, it should be a great match!
CB: And finally, who do you see getting the goals for the two teams?
SC: For good value, I’d suggest backing Ashley Young for first goalscorer at 8/1. He was rested for the game in Romania in midweek so will be fresh. His move to United has seen his become a better player and he is now also becoming a key player for England. He has pace to worry the City defence, and is more than capable with both feet, which causes confusion for the fullback. This season he has scored three goals in nine games in all competitions, whereas for Aston Villa last year, he managed nine goals in 39 games. So by the end of this season he could and is likely to easily beat that record.
DS: City have played better as a team this season, which has been key to their success (Kia Joorabchian has asked me to make clear that this is not due to Mr Tevez’s absence). But one man has still managed to stand out above the rest, and in David Silva, City have a genuine world class match winner. The slick Spaniard has notched up two goals and five assists from his seven starts in the Premier League this term, and tormented United’s defence in this fixture last season. He found himself in key positions on a number of occasions, and calmer finishing would have seen him grab a brace, and I’d back him to show more composure this Sunday by getting the opening goal of the game at a generous 12/1.
CB: OK, thanks guys. Whatever the result, let’s hope for a good game.
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