JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

A city disunited for heavyweights' title fight

Date

The Manchester derby between City and United is being billed as the most seismic local clash in the history of English football, writes Henry Winter.

Danger man … City's Carlos Tevez.

Danger man … City's Carlos Tevez. Photo: Getty Images

In the first Manchester derby, with the clubs in nascent form back in 1881, Newton Heath were helped on their way to victory when the ball ''was put through the West Gorton goal by one of their own backs'', according to the Ashton Reporter.

Manchester City's capacity for own goals on and off the pitch, for grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory, was famously noted by Franny Lee with his pithy observation that, ''If there was a cup for cock-ups, City would win it.'' Yet what Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan's money and Roberto Mancini's management have done is maximise the possibility of cups and reduce the likelihood of cock-ups.

City leave less to chance now on and off the pitch. They make fewer mistakes. There will still be the gaskets blown, such as Carlos Tevez's unscheduled golfing break and Mario Balotelli's assorted indiscretions with fireworks and fouls, all off these cock-ups with attitude, but City are a slicker, smoother operation. A bit more like Manchester United. The best compliment paid to City comes in the changed tone of United's manager, Alex Ferguson, when discussing them. When City put up their infamous Tevez ''Welcome to Manchester'' poster, a dig at the fact that United reside in Trafford, Ferguson described them witheringly as ''a small club with a small mentality''.

Influence ... Paul Scholes has been instrumental for the Red Devils since coming out of retirement.

Influence ... Paul Scholes has been instrumental for the Red Devils since coming out of retirement. Photo: Getty Images

On the eve of this derby, Ferguson spoke respectfully of how City have gone out and bought ''the best and most experienced players''. He was not lobbing a barb across the neighbours' fence about their spending, but complimenting the quality of Mancini's squad, acknowledging the danger they pose.

What also needs noting in the construction of the new City is that the dressing-room is filled with good people, as well as good players. Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott, James Milner, Gareth Barry, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, among others, present the club in an excellent light on and off the pitch. Reliable is a word that has crept into the City lexicon.

Controversial ... Mario Balotelli could figure in the Manchester derby.

Controversial ... Mario Balotelli could figure in the Manchester derby. Photo: Getty Images

There is a unity among Mancini's players seen in recent performances, in the way they supported each other last weekend at the Professional Footballers' Association awards dinner. If they can ease Tevez and Balotelli out the door this summer, building around more solid characters, the new City will continue to take impressive shape.

When the money from Abu Dhabi began flooding in to Eastlands, the club was encouraged to build slowly, to go for evolution rather than revolution. They made mistakes, classic old-school City cock-ups such as the cack-handed pursuit of Kaka but now seem in incredibly capable hands from boardroom to dugout.

Their plans for the new Etihad Campus are stunning, also helping regenerate a deprived area. All that Arab petrol money is being invested wisely. Somehow, the club with all the cash is not behaving like a lottery winner, with little crassness or arrogance. City's rise is reflected in a prominence in cup competitions, winning the FA Cup last year, but the title is another step up, another test of their calibre and ambition. What could prove a ''league decider'' tomorrow, according to Ferguson, showed City's ''great progress''. More praise.

Their credibility will be enhanced with a title. They have to vanquish United and then guard against the fate that would have befallen the old City, beating United and then slipping up in their next game, throwing it all away. City face Newcastle United next weekend, and that will be no jolly day out at the Blaydon Races. Alan Pardew has made St James' Park imposing again.

City have to defeat Manchester United first in the king of all derbies, a game being depicted as the most seismic local tear-up in the history of English football. Everton and Liverpool duelled in the mid-'80s. London clubs exchanged blows occasionally down the years in the heavyweight category. Rarely with as much at stake as this. This is neighbours at war, fighting for the right to be regional and national champions as the world watches. Never before have so many overseas broadcasters flocked to an English game (16 compared with nine at the last El Clasico). Tomorrow is Babel in boots, the ultimate world game: Arabs versus Americans in the boardroom, Italian against Scot in the dugout, and all before a playing troupe drawn from Argentina to the Ivory Coast, England to Ecuador.

City are favourites, boast more players in form, have Tevez on a mission, yet United possess resilience in their DNA.

Ferguson's defence must show far more organisation and concentration than against Everton last weekend. Mancini will have watched that DVD, noting United's vulnerability to clever movement. Aguero, and especially Tevez, will be poised.

This is the most important game of Rio Ferdinand's season; he has to marshal that back line well. Patrice Evra's positioning has been poor, while Jonny Evans still has a mistake in him. Ferguson will surely not risk starting Rafael da Silva following the Brazilian's chastening experience against Everton. Chris Smalling offers a better option at right-back. His greater physical presence also important at defending corners against the power of Yaya Toure, Kompany and Lescott.

In midfield, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick will need to sit deeper at times, filling the space into which Tevez likes to drop. Central midfield presents Ferguson with a real conundrum. It is in the Scot's nature to field wingers, and he can select from Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young. Yet City are so powerful in the centre that Carrick and Scholes could be outgunned.

Ferguson could start Wayne Rooney on the left of a five-man midfield, omit a winger, deploy Ryan Giggs with Danny Welbeck as the lone striker. That would signal caution and would break up the hugely promising Welbeck-Rooney axis. Some have suggested that Ferguson should play Rooney up top, keeping Welbeck in reserve. Nonsense. Welbeck deserves to start; he is playing well and scoring. As a local lad, Welbeck knows how much the derby matters. He'll be up for it. Ferguson should be true to his instincts: be bold. The expectation is that he will go for the jugular, starting 4-4-2 with Rooney dropping into midfield when City have the ball.

For all City's strengths, a personal view is that United will survive. Even if City fail to win, the old uncertainties should not come racing back. The Blue Moon is rising and the title will come. Keep calm and carry on building.

Telegraph, London

Related Coverage

Hyundai A - 2014-15 - All Rounds

Round 1
Fri, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 4vs WSW 1 Stats
Sat, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs NEW 0 Stats
SYD 1vs MCY 1 Stats
Sun, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs PER 2 Stats
BRI 1vs ADE 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs VIC 1 Stats
Sat, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs WEL 2 Stats
SYD 3vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs NEW 1 Stats
PER 3vs BRI 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI 0vs SYD 2 Stats
Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 5vs MCY 2 Stats
Sun, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 4vs NEW 1 Stats
ADE 2vs PER 0 Stats
Wed, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs CCM 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
PER 2vs NEW 1 Stats
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 2vs CCM 0 Stats
Mon, 03 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2vs WEL 0 Stats
Wed, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs BRI 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs WSW 0 Stats
ADE 0vs SYD 0 Stats
Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2vs VIC 2 Stats
BRI 1vs MCY 3 Stats
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs PER 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs BRI 4 Stats
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs WEL 1 Stats
SYD 0vs VIC 0 Stats
PER 2vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
MCY 2vs CCM 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1vs BRI 0 Stats
PER 2vs WEL 1 Stats
Sat, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs NEW 1 Stats
MCY 1vs SYD 2 Stats
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs ADE 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 3vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs PER 1 Stats
WSW 1vs SYD 1 Stats
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 5vs MCY 1 Stats
NEW 1vs CCM 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Thu, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD 1vs PER 2 Stats
Fri, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs WEL 3 Stats
ADE 2vs WSW 0 Stats
Sun, 07 DecTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs BRI 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 0vs BRI 1 Stats
PER 2vs NEW 0 Stats
Sat, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs CCM 1 Stats
VIC 3vs SYD 3 Stats
Wed, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 3vs MCY 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2vs ADE 1 Stats
Sat, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs VIC 0 Stats
PER 4vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 21 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs WEL 2 Stats
Wed, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs WSW 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs PER 1 Stats
SYD 0vs ADE 3 Stats
Sat, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs BRI 3 Stats
VIC 1vs NEW 0 Stats
Sun, 28 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs WSW 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Tue, 30 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2vs MCY 5 Stats
BRI 0vs SYD 0 Stats
Wed, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs WEL 3 Stats
Thu, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs CCM 0 Stats
Fri, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1vs PER 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Sat, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs NEW 0 Stats
Sun, 04 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL 3vs BRI 0 Stats
CCM 2vs MCY 0 Stats
Mon, 05 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER 1vs ADE 2 Stats
Tue, 06 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs VIC 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Sat, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 7vs NEW 0 Stats
CCM 1vs SYD 5 Stats
Sun, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER 3vs VIC 3 Stats
Sun, 01 FebTimes shown AEDT
MCY 2vs WSW 1 Stats
Mon, 02 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI 3vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs BRI 2 Stats
Sat, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM 2vs ADE 1 Stats
VIC 3vs MCY 0 Stats
PER 1vs SYD 3 Stats
Sun, 08 FebTimes shown AEDT
WSW 2vs WEL 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs BRI 2 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL 0vs MCY 0 Stats
NEW 1vs WSW 1 Stats
SYD 3vs VIC 3 Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs PER 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD 4vs CCM 2 Stats
ADE 2vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2vs NEW 2 Stats
MCY 0vs PER 0 Stats
Wed, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 1vs VIC 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
MCY 3vs ADE 1 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs CCM 0 Stats
WSW 3vs SYD 4 Stats
PER 2vs BRI 2 Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2vs WEL 3 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs SYD 1 Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2vs ADE 0 Stats
VIC 1vs PER 1 Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs MCY 0 Stats
BRI 1vs WSW 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Thu, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY 4vs NEW 0 Stats
PER 1vs WEL 2 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 5vs BRI 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs MCY 1 Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs NEW 2 Stats
ADE 2vs VIC 2 Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs PER 1 Stats
BRI 1vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2vs CCM 1 Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs BRI 0 Stats
PER 3vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL 0vs SYD 3 Stats
NEW 0vs ADE 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs MCY 1 Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs ADE 1 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL 0vs VIC 3 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
NEW 0vs PER 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
VIC 0vs NEW 1 Stats
PER 0vs SYD 3 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE 2vs BRI 3 Stats
CCM 1vs WSW 0 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
MCY 0vs WEL 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL 3vs CCM 2 Stats
NEW 3vs SYD 4 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
WSW 2vs ADE 1 Stats
BRI 0vs VIC 1 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
PER 3vs MCY 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 2vs NEW 1 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
WSW 1vs PER 2 Stats
ADE 4vs MCY 1 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL 1vs SYD 2 Stats
VIC 3vs CCM 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 28
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 2vs BRI 1 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
WEL 0vs MCY 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 29
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
VIC 3vs MCY 0 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 4vs ADE 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 30
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
VIC 3vs SYD 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Hyundai A - 2014-15 - Ladder
Overall standings
Team P W L +/- Pts
Melbourne Victory 27 15 4 25 53
Sydney FC 27 14 5 17 50
Adelaide United 27 14 9 15 46
Wellington Phoenix 27 14 9 10 46
Melbourne City FC 27 9 10 -5 35
Brisbane Roar 27 10 13 -1 34
Perth Glory 27 14 5 10 50
Central Coast Mariners 27 5 14 -24 23
View all
 
Featured advertisers