English foot­ball’s pre-em­i­nent derby?

Liver­pool will hope United take points off City on Sun­day

Pretoria News - - SPORT -

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

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