Manchester City and Manchester United have both endured stuttering starts to the Premier League season, with a loss and a draw each in their opening four matches. United were beaten away at high-flying Liverpool while City slipped up against newly-promoted Cardiff. With seven points each, City manager Manuel Pellegrini described the match as a “six-point” game although at this early stage, the result may be more important psychologically than in regards to final league positions.
PERSONAL SCORES TO BE SETTLED
Both teams’ managers will be experiencing their first Manchester derby having taken charge of their respective clubs in the summer. David Moyes has an excellent record against City, winning nine of his last 12 matches while manager of Everton. Pellegrini has the personal edge over Moyes, however, after beating Everton when coaching Villarreal in Champions League qualifying in 2005. Pellegrini said, “I know he had good results against Manchester City when he managed Everton. I always have a good record against him when he was managing Everton when I was managing Villarreal.”
Much of the limelight will be on United striker Wayne Rooney, who continues to be the focus of speculation regarding his future at Old Trafford. Former manager Alex Ferguson revealed Rooney was unhappy at the end of last season and Rooney is yet to commit his long-term future to the club. However, the striker’s off-field issues do not seem to have affected his form on the pitch. Rooney has scored or assisted 40 goals in his last 44 Premier League matches and he scored two goals in United’s 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night. But when asked if a contract extension was a possibility for Rooney, Moyes was cautious. “I think we just go step by step,” he said.
The two clubs had very different experiences in the transfer window, with Manchester City spending almost 100 million pounds on five new players while United only bought Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini. City added Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic and Martin Dimichelis to the squad. Pellegrini believes it will take time for his players to adjust to his playing style. “We know we must improve every game. It is very difficult to change styles, to have new ideas,” he said. “Until December it is very important to win and with winning it is easier to improve. But we have to improve a lot of things.”
CALLS FOR CALM
Last season’s corresponding fixture was marred by two incidents involving United defender Rio Ferdinand, who was struck by a coin thrown from the crowd and targeted by a Manchester City supporter who ran on to the pitch. City goalkeeper Joe Hart prevented the supporter from reaching Ferdinand and has called for calm ahead of this Sunday’s match. “There were incidents last year which no-one wants to see repeated,” Hart said. “The eyes of the world will be on this game as usual, and I’m confident our supporters will do the club proud.”