English Premiership

City, United set for epic derby

2012-04-23 21:02
Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini (File)

Manchester - The stakes have never been so high for a Manchester derby.

Sure, Manchester United were once relegated after losing 1-0 at home to City but results elsewhere on that day in May 1974 meant the Red Devils would have gone down even without a back-heeled goal from former United striker Denis Law.

This time around, the northwest neighbours' business is being conducted at the right end of the table.

United were in control of their own destiny until Sunday's 4-4 draw against Everton tipped the balance toward City, who can now win a first championship since 1968 if they win their three remaining games.

"We've given City the initiative; there's no question about that," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "It makes the game at the Etihad Stadium a really important game now. It makes it the title decider, really."

There is still a week and almost an entire round of Premier League action remaining before the northwest neighboors go head-to-head at City's Etihad Stadium but the game is already dominating the sports pages in the British press.

Even with two more matches for each team after next week, the encounter is more important than any of the 44 Manchester derbies Ferguson has previously been involved in.

"Definitely," Ferguson said.

United looked to have a record 20th title in the bag after overhauling City but they dropped five of the last nine available points and momentum now seems to be with City, who already mauled United 6-1 at Old Trafford this season for the worst defeat of Ferguson's 26 years in charge.

Everton's four goals mean United have conceded more goals at home than in any league season since 1978-79, leaving Ferguson to emphasise spirit rather than stats.

"We make it hard for ourselves but we have to go there knowing we're capable of getting a result," Ferguson said. "We need to get a result now at the Etihad, there's no question about that. There's no reason why we can't do that."

The one thing in United's favoor is the experience of the title winners in their ranks.

"It's a huge game," Nani said. "It will be a difficult game, but if you want to win the league you cannot think about the atmosphere or the opponents, we must just think about the way we play and try to win the game."

"We have to keep believing in our qualities because we still have a great opportunity to win the title."

Ferguson has been trying to suggest the pressure is on City because of their players' relative inexperience and City manager Roberto Mancini has seemed ready to embrace that diminished status despite his team's greater financial muscle and depth of squad.

Mancini pointed out that there are still two more games for each side to clinch or throw away the title.

Defending champions United host Swansea and finish at Sunderland, while City are at fourth-place Newcastle before hosting Queens Park Rangers on the last day of the season.

"We have another chance but they have a bigger chance than us at this moment," Mancini said. "After the derby, the games United have left are not as difficult as the ones we have to play."

Read more on:    alex ferguson  |  roberto mancini
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07 February 2015
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal, White Hart Lane 14:45
Manchester City v Hull City, Etihad Stadium 17:00
Leicester City v Crystal Palace, King Power Stadium 17:00
Swansea City v Sunderland, Liberty Stadium 17:00
Queens Park Rangers v Southampton, Loftus Road Stadium 17:00
Aston Villa v Chelsea, Villa Park 17:00
Everton v Liverpool, Goodison Park 19:30
08 February 2015
Burnley v West Bromwich Albion, Turf Moor 14:00
Newcastle United v Stoke City, St. James' Park 16:05
West Ham United v Manchester United, Boleyn Ground 18:15
10 February 2015
Arsenal v Leicester City, Emirates Stadium 21:45
Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers, Stadium of Light 21:45
Hull City v Aston Villa, The KC Stadium 21:45
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