As all 15 of Manchester City’s away support turned out to watch an impotent, lackluster and embarrassingly lazy team of mercenaries limp to defeat against Crystal Palace earlier this week you could almost feel the heat rise on the red side of Manchester.
United fans have blown the dust off the book of optimism this week, unused for so long. Like a scene in an Indiana Jones film or opening Maggie Thatcher’s coffin, the dust was almost too thick to see through.
Gary Neville believes Manchester United have the edge ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby but said that not a single player from United and City would make it into his team of the season.
After a shaky start to the season, United laboured their way to a top four spot but Louis Van Gaal’s team selection had not fully convinced up until a month ago, while City’s title defence has been as poor as that of two seasons ago.
Louis Van Gaal has claimed that he was more worried about playing Aston Villa at home last week than he is by the prospect of facing Manchester City tomorrow.
The Dutchman lost his first Manchester derby in November but his team will go into tomorrow favourites as the form team in the competition after winning the last five league games.
Ashley Young believes Manchester United will go into Sunday’s Manchester derby with all the momentum, but warned against underestimating City and insisted United had not secured a top-four finish yet.
United’s 3-1 over Aston Villa on Saturday coupled with City’s 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace on Monday saw United moved into third place, a point ahead of their local rivals, who led United by nine points in January.
Wayne Rooney has described the Manchester derby as “a massive game of pride” ahead of Sunday’s all-Mancunian fixture against City at Old Trafford.
United have won just two of their last nine derbies, with only of those wins coming at Old Trafford, but arrive into Sunday’s game as the in-form side in the league, having won their last five league games, while City have fallen a point behind Louis Van Gaal’s men.
Certainties were at a premium when Louis Van Gaal arrived at Manchester United in July.
Expectations and hopes abounded after a disastrous season under David Moyes, but the canvas in front of the Dutch manager was largely blank by the time he stepped into the United dressing room for the first time.
Marouane Fellaini has urged Manchester United to pile the pressure on City in the Manchester derby this Sunday, insisting that they “have to do everything” to get the better of Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
A remarkable turnaround in form has seen United win five league games in a row, with wins against Spurs and Liverpool consolidating their grasp on a top four spot, while City have suffered a slump in form and arrive at Old Trafford a point below United.
Mark Clattenburg will referee the Manchester derby this Sunday in what is likely to an even more fiercely contested affair than usually, given United and City go into the game separated by a single point.
Widely regarded as one of the best referees in the Premier League, Clattenburg has refereed United three times this season, sending off two United players in the process.