United look to silence their ‘noisy neighbours’
At face value there is little to indicate tonight’s Carling Cup semi-final second leg between the red and blue halves of Manchester is anything more than a decent-sized fixture in a bloated schedule.
Yes, it is a well balanced knockout fixture and yes, it is a derby, but it is still only the humble League Cup after all, a trophy United lifted last year by beating Spurs with their second XI.
Since Ctiy’s multi-billion pound ‘sheik-up,’ early last season United’s fan’s have watched rather smugly from their lofty vantage point as their less decorated neighbours struggled to rise to new expectations. The chant of “City going down with a billion in the bank,” drifted sporadically across Old Trafford as their team nonchalantly closed in on a third successive title and a second consecutive Champions League final.
And though the extraordinary 4-3 fixture in September was a classic, Mark Hughes’ subsequent sacking and City’s inconsistent form ensured United remained the unquestioned dominant force in Manchester.
The Premier League table continues to reflect this with United currently top, five places and twelve points clear of City, but events in the last few weeks have punctured the Champions’ scornful belittling of their tempestuous neighbours.
It all comes down to money of course. City have an almost limitless supply of it whilst United, it has been confirmed, are really rather strapped. Whilst the City of Manchester Stadium rocked to the beat of Carlos Tevez’s drum 8 days ago, Old Trafford was equally vociferous in its protest at the Glazers’ shocking mismanagement of one of the World’s most profitable clubs.
On the pitch too there are rumblings of discontent. Tevez’s goal celebration may have irked many fan’s (including Gary Neville) but the anger could equally have been directed at the club’s senior management who must surely have pressured Ferguson into deciding the Argentine was not worth the asking price in the first place.
It is of course utterly irrelevant now but Tevez has clearly not forgotten the cold shoulder shown to him by United and though the mud-slinging between him and the ‘sock licker,’ Neville has been rather petty, it has only served to add extra spice to tonight’s encounter.
United will have felt aggrieved that they failed to force a result in a first leg which they had the better of and should attack from the off against a City defence which may welcome back Kolo Toure from Africa Cup of Nations duty.
Toure and co. will have to be in top form to resist the battering-ram that is Wayne Rooney, fresh from scoring all four goals in United’s demolition of Hull on the weekend. Ferguson will be desperate to find opportunities to rest his star striker between now and May but his chance is unlikely to come this week, particularly as Rooney’s purple patches tend to be rather darker than most.
Sir Alex will also definitely have Rio Ferdinand’s services to call upon despite the 31-year-old’s impending ban for violent conduct against Hull’s Craig Fagan.
Roberto Mancini meanwhile may name Emanuel Adebayor in his squad after his period of leave following the attacks on the Togo team bus in Angola earlier this month. The gangling forward is a welcome returnee, especially with the £32 million man Robinho desperate to engineer a loan move back to his native Brazil.
Extra police will be on standby in and around the ground after small incidents cropped up at Eastlands last week and the Old Trafford faithful will undoubtedly put down the prawn sandwiches and flame the fires of this already most combustible tie.