Manchester Passions Run High, Or Do They?
The 170th Manchester Derby could be one of the most interesting and closest clashes between the clubs in years as both teams are sitting pretty at the summit of the Premier League and whoever comes out on top on Sunday will not only have local, and worldwide, bragging rights but will also get their noses in front in the league race. Here's why it should be interesting as both sides, it has to be said, have had an indifferent start to the season, especially when it comes to certain player's performances, but somehow even playing below par both teams have piled up the points. They have both been humbled in matches and even in victories neither side has hit top gear yet on a consistent basis.
Both sides have individual match winners and City will be buzzing after their last minute winner against Sevilla scored by De Bruyne probably their most dangerous player in the absence of Aguero and Silva, but having said that United have one main advantage going into the match in the shape of French striker Anthony Martial, who has greatly impressed since his arrival at Old Trafford, you can't beat scoring against Liverpool on your debut but a late winner on Sunday will go a long way towards matching it. United lead the way with 70 wins compared to City's 49 and with the home advantage you would have to put the Red Devils down as slight favourites in a game where league form counts for nothing, or does it? It used to be true that in a derby league form went out of the window as it was all about local passion and that is still true for the fans, but for the players it is just another big game of many in the league calendar. This has to be put down to the fact that most of the them involved in this weekend's match are foreigners with no one, with the possible exception of Lingard, who was born in Warrington, from anywhere close to the Manchester area. Gone are the days when we had the likes of the Neville brothers, Scholes, and Butt, who were all Greater Manchester lads and fully understood the importance of the local rivalry as they were players but also fans and they didn't need to be reminded how big a match the derby was. There is no doubt that Ryan Giggs has tried to install in the new recruits how big a deal this is for the club, but even captain Rooney, an Evertonian at heart, must consider the Liverpool clashes more important than playing City.
Will the passion of old ever return? It's highly unlikely as even the new young talent are being shipped in from foreign shores. It's not the players fault as it stems from the modern day football ideal which is built on money and sponsorship deals where the players kissing of a badge means little to the fans these days. Footballers nowadays are wrapped in cotton wool and protected from the outside world, however, they only have to check social media to gauge the fans' feelings towards the derby and maybe then they could understand how the narrow margins the highs and lows of victory or defeat mean to the supporters who are not so immune to the virals. As hard as they try to understand the deep lying resentment between both sets of fans it's understandable that the players don't have the same emotion going into the match. One other thing that has been noticed are the rival player's bromances before matches and the images of the opposing Spanish players greeting each other in the tunnel before United's defeat at Arsenal is something that we will be seeing more of, but something that would not have been imaginable in the strict match focused days of Fergie and Keane.
A handshake or a nod was all that the players exchanged before they took the field, or in Keane's case a threat, but now it's all hugs and kisses, which surely detracts from the confrontation ahead. Hopefully, Rojo and Otamendi won't be sharing a warm embrace before the derby. Enjoy the game, passionately. Thanks for reading. Miles Dunton [@Milesdunton].