BBC – Manchester City host rivals Manchester United on Monday night knowing victory would give them the edge in the Premier League title race.
United travel to Etihad Stadium with a three-point lead over their rivals, but have an inferior goal difference. City kept the pressure on the leaders with a 2-0 win over Wolves last weekend as United drew 4-4 with Everton.
Victory for City would put them level with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men with just two games remaining. United have the edge in the head-to-heads, having won 67 of the 161 matches between the two clubs with City coming out on top in 44. However, the last time the two sides met in the league, City thumped United 6-1 – the Red Devils’ heaviest-ever Premier League defeat and the first time they had conceded six goals at Old Trafford since 1930.
“This is the derby game of all derby games,” said Ferguson. “It is our city rivals and that makes everyone step up a notch in terms of anticipation.
“Our fans will look upon it [a possible league win] as a special one because they are our fans’ most bitter rivals, there is no getting away from that. It means everything to the fans and I think going into work on Tuesday morning will be the most important day of their lives for both sets of supporters. People are brought up through their grandfathers, their great grandfathers, their grandmothers to be what they are. You can’t change a family’s traits. It is steeped in the blood of these supporters and they will give everything to win this game on Monday.”
With so much at stake, City manager Roberto Mancini is hoping that this derby will pass peacefully.
“It is a football day and not war and, for this reason, I hope all supporters will enjoy the game,” said Mancini, who admitted he is worried about the day. “The United game is like a final and you can lose these games; you are not playing against a small team.”
While City’s home record is favourable, with 21 wins in their last 22 matches in the top flight, the Blues have not scored at home against United in the league for nearly five years.
But recent form suggests City are favourites. Roberto Mancini’s men have won their last three games, scoring 13 goals in the process. United, meanwhile, have taken just four points from a possible nine, which included losing a 4-2 lead to draw with Everton at Old Trafford.
But if United win and then triumph in their two remaining games, they will finish with 92 points to equal their best Premier League tally, achieved when they won the title in 1994. City visit Newcastle next after the derby clash and then face QPR at home, while United take on Swansea at Old Trafford before finishing with a trip to Sunderland.