English football’s pre-eminent derby?
Liverpool will hope United take points off City on Sunday
THE rise of Manchester City in the past decade has raised the question of whether the Manchester derby has finally replaced United’s clash with Liverpool as the pre-eminent derby in English football’s North-West heartland.
While there are no shortage of United fans who, for either historic reasons or a sense of inter-city competition, still say that Liverpool is the ultimate grudge match, there is no doubt the Manchester derby has grown in stature and relevance.
Sunday’s game at the Etihad Stadium will certainly have the real edge of a derby although, as has been the case for several seasons, City will start it from a position of superiority.
Pep Guardiola’s side look down from their perch on a United team stuck in seventh place.
Few of United’s faithful truly believe Jose Mourinho’s team can finish above Guardiola’s champions in May, but a win on Sunday would restore some lost pride.
That was the case in April when United came back from two goals down at the break to win 3-2 and deprive City of the satisfaction of clinching the title on their home turf.
City’s celebrations of their 2-1 win at Old Trafford last December had rankled with Mourinho and his players and they showed that in the tense atmosphere of a derby they were capable of lifting their game and rattling City.
They will need to be firing on all cylinders to stop Guardiola’s side who have scored 11 goals in their past two home games in the Premier League – putting five past Burnley and hitting Southampton for six.
City are unbeaten in the league with nine wins from 11 games, while Manchester United have won six and lost three and already trail their neighbours by nine points.
Both sides will be buoyant after contrasting Champions League wins on Wednesday when City trounced Shakhtar Donetsk 6-0 and United plucked a 2-1 victory over Juventus out of the fire with two late goals in Turin.
Mourinho defended his taunting of Juventus supporters after that win.
Former United player Cristiano Ronaldo had given Juventus a lead in the second half but despite being outplayed, United struck back with a free kick from Juan Mata in the 86th minute and an own goal in stoppage time.
“If you understand Italian you will know that I was insulted by them for 90 minutes.
“I didn’t offend anyone, I just made a gesture to tell them that I wanted to hear them louder,” Mourinho told reporters after cupping his ear to the home fans at the final whistle, prompting a cascade of whistles.
“I probably shouldn’t have done it, and with a cool head I wouldn’t have. But with my family insulted, including my Inter Milan family, I reacted like this.”
Mourinho’s reaction came on the day that the Football Association (FA) said it would appeal against a decision which saw him escape punishment for an alleged foul-mouthed outburst in Portuguese in front of television cameras following his side’s 3-2 win over Newcastle United last month.
An independent regulatory commission had cleared Mourinho of the charge on October 31 after consulting language experts.
When quizzed in a post-match interview with BT Sport about what had prompted his gesture to the Juventus fans and animated confrontation with some of their players after the game, Mourinho appeared to send a thinly veiled message to English football’s organising body.
“Do you understand Italian? Then maybe ask the FA to translate for you,” he said.
Liverpool, smarting from their Champions League loss to Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday, will be hoping that United can do them a favour and take points off City.
Jurgen Klopp’s side host bottom club Fulham while second-placed Chelsea, also two points behind City, have a tougher task at home to Everton.
Tottenham Hotspur, in fourth place, will look for their seventh away win so far this season when they travel to Crystal Palace tomorrow evening. |
Manchester United’s coach Jose Mourinho reacts at the end of of the UEFA Champions League Group H match against Juventus FC at the Allianz Stadium in Turin,Italy on Wednesday. | EPA