As the build-up to Monday’s explosive encounter intensifies, I asked a number of journalists and media figures for their opinions on how the match may unfold. Here is what they said:
James Ducker, Northern Football Correspondent of The Times newspaper: United to win 2-1. Ordinarily, I’d go for a City win. They are some force at the Etihad, after all. But since the onus will be on them to push for the win given that anything less than three points will play into United’s hands, I think there’s a danger of them being susceptible on the counter. It’s probably not the popular view but I think the fact that United don’t have to win the game and City do could play into United’s hands. Ordinarily, I’d expect United’s midfield to be overcome by City’s, which is superior. Ferguson, though, will have to dispense with 4-4-2.
Rob Dawson, Football writer covering Man City and Man United for the Manchester Evening News: Even with so much riding on it, I’m not expecting it to be very tight because I don’t think either team is capable of shutting down a game. 2-2.
Jack Pitt-Brooke, Football writer for The Independent and Independent on Sunday: I think City will just scramble to victory – maybe a late Carlos Tevez winner – but still not sure I can see them winning at Newcastle.
Oliver Kay, Chief Football Correspondent for The Times newspaper: I quite fancy City to win on Monday. I think they’ve rediscovered the sense of purpose that went missing — perhaps fatally — for a time in March and early April. I’m surprised and impressed they’ve done that because, from what I’m reliably informed (cue cynicism and “agenda” accusations), the dressing-room had become a very unhappy place, particularly in the days before and after the Arsenal game.
Man for man, they have better players than United, but it’s the age-old issue whether they perform as the sum of their parts. United, with the experience, collective belief and manager they have, are always more than the sum of their parts, which is why it’s such an even race. But if City perform as a team on Monday, I’d say they have every chance of winning.
The title race? If City don’t win on Monday, it will surely be all over. And if they do, it will be a wonderful opportunity for them to go on and win the title. They’ve got two tough games to go, though. Can I get away with saying it would be “typical City” to win on Monday and then fall short against Newcastle or maybe even a QPR team managed by Mark Hughes? Mind you, it’s not “typical City” in this situation. It must be an incredibly exciting time for the fans.
Ian Herbert, Northern Football Correspendent for The Independent: 1-1. Soaking pitch, tension. City with De Jong rather than Nasri, United using Rooney as 5th midfielder. No classic. Requires moment of pure magic to win.
Steven Wyeth, BBC sports reporter and commentator who covers Man Utd for BBC Radio Manchester: The tense, nervous anxiety will last the full 90 mins & nothing will be decided. 1-1, and United will go on to win the title, just.
Ian Ladyman, Northern Football Correspondent of the Daily Mail: I think City’s home record and the fact that they know they can beat United makes them favourites for the game. They must play positively, though. I was disturbed by their lack of conviction at Wolves last week. They have to improve on that. If they can get themselves mentally right for the game and play with belief then I think City will win 2-0.
Annie Eaves, writer for Sport Witness and others: I’ll go 1-1 but the only thing I can predict with any certainty is that I’ll be moving my sofa away from the wall so I can hide behind it.
Jamie Jackson, Manchester football correspondent of Guardian/Observer: 3-2 City.
Will Dean, Deputy Features Editor at The Independent: Predictions: Heart: 2-1 City. Head: Paul Scholes injury time 0-1. Considered opinion: nerve-ruining 1-1 draw ( goals from Yaya, Rooney). I think it’s going to be incredibly nervy and scrappy (like Carling Cup semi leg 2) with one big moment. In other words, I feel sick already.
James Maw, Writer/Online Features Editor for FourFourTwo: It’s not often these hugely hyped fixtures live up to their billing – especially in the Premier League – but I have a feeling City’s need to win, combined with the unlikelihood of United adopting a defensive approach, will lead to a great night’s entertainment at the Etihad Stadium on Monday evening.
I don’t agree that the pressure is all on United, despite their eight-point lead being cut back so suddenly. City are playing in front of their own fans and simply have to win, whereas a draw would suit United just fine.
If City keep their discipline and patience, they should be able to craft enough openings to win the match, though United have played in countless high-pressure fixtures and know how to soak up the pressure and somehow nab a victory just when they look like being on the ropes.
Prediction: City 2-1 United
John Brewin, Senior Editor at ESPNsoccernet: 2-2, late drama aplenty. It will start cagey and then something will flick the switch. Go on then, it will be Tevez. But this ain’t over.
So that’s what a selection of journalists think. Do you agree? Let me know below what your thoughts are ahead of the Manchester derby.