Stakes high in derby at Manchester
THERE have been few Manchester derbies with as much on the line as Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford of the top two teams in the English Premier League.
It is the most anticipated league clash of the season’s campaign, so far.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have built an eight-point lead, following an unbeaten start to the season that has included 13 straight victories – equalling the record for the longest winning run in a single English Premier League campaign.
Not to be completely outdone, however, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United have equalled a historic club record – by remaining unbeaten at Old Trafford for 40 matches, in all competitions.
And with former Barcelona boss Guardiola and ex-Real Madrid manager Mourinho having developed a fierce rivalry during their time together in Spain, Sunday’s meeting promises to be one to savour.
The last team to beat Man United at home were Man City in September last year, and a repeat performance would leave the club – once derided as noisy neighbours by former veteran United boss Alex Ferguson – 11 points clear at the summit.
Manchester City have been playing some exhilarating football in this campaign with coach Guardiola’s style of play, which served him so well at his previous clubs, bringing the expected rewards after a disappointing lack of consistency last season.
Yet, while United have suffered two defeats on the road – to Huddersfield Town and Chelsea – they too have looked like champions at home. The 40 games unbeaten have included 29 wins and 11 draws, with 85 goals scored and just 17 conceded.
This season’s league record at Old Trafford is played seven, won seven – and 20 goals for and one against.
Mourinho, however, will be without his key French midfielder Paul Pogba, who starts a three-match ban following his red card in Saturday’s crucial 3-1 win at Arsenal.
Meanwhile, United had refused a request by City to bring their own camera crew into the away dressing room at Old Trafford, reports said yesterday.
The move could add spice to a match that Manchester United dare not lose if they are to retain any realistic hope of reeling in Guardiola’s flying side.
Amazon are following Manchester City for a behindthe-scenes documentary about the club’s campaign this season, which will be screened next year as part of a reported £10-million (R183-million) deal.
City were understood to have made a formal request to United and the Premier League for the Amazon crew to be given access to the tunnel area and away dressing room, but it had been denied due to insufficient space, Britain’s Times newspaper said.
The report said United had instead granted permission for a pitch-side camera to film the warm-up.
United’s stance would be welcomed by the league’s existing rights-holders, including Sky Sports and BT Sport, who had shown irritation at the access City were granting to a commercial rival, the Times said.