Stakes high in derby at Manch­ester

The Herald (South Africa) - - SPORT -

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.

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