All eyes turn to Old Trafford for key Manchester derby


Thu, 20 Oct 16:09:00 2011

The eyes of the footballing world will be focused on Manchester on Sunday when English champions Manchester United play league leaders Manchester City in one of the most eagerly-awaited derbies between the two for years.

According to recent figures from the Premier League, 1.4 billion viewers regularly tune in to watch their matches everywhere from Australia to Zanzibar and Sunday's game will be one of the biggest attractions of the season.

The players of both teams have been talking up their chances and, although one match never truly defines a season, victory in a derby usually assumes particular importance for the fans of the winning side.

Those who worship at Old Trafford have had many of their prayers answered for years with United securing trophy after trophy under Alex Ferguson and Manchester United's Portuguese winger Nani has told local media that United will be far too strong at their Old Trafford fortress for their neighbours.

City's Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong says City will be going to Old Trafford for the 1230 GMT kickoff as the top-ranked team in the country -- and they intend leaving that way too.

United have won 24 of their last 25 league matches at Old Trafford, and all of the last 19, and have not been beaten there since Chelsea won in April 2010.

Nani, while recognising the threat City pose, is optimistic about another win that would take United back to the top after they slipped to second last week.

"City have a fantastic team at the moment with fantastic players," the 24-year-old Portugal winger told reporters after United beat Romanians Otelul Galati in their Champions League match in Romania on Tuesday.

"City are playing a lot of good stuff and it will be difficult to play against them. But we should not forget we are United. When we play at home it is very hard to beat us. That is why we are so confident.

"With a record like ours, we should be confident every time we play at home. We have to believe we are going to win most of the games."

However, Sunday's match came far too early in the season to be regarded as a title-decider, he said.

"I just feel it is too early to say it is just going to be about Manchester United and Manchester City for the title, Chelsea have been doing very well as well."


Nani has already struck against City this season, scoring twice when United came from 2-0 down to beat them 3-2 in a thrilling Community Shield season curtain-raiser at Wembley in August.

Since then City, like United, have been unbeaten in the league and go to Old Trafford as leaders following a 4-1 win over Aston Villa last weekend which followed United's 1-1 draw at Liverpool.

De Jong said he expected to leave Old Trafford with City still top.

Talking to reporters after City beat Villarreal in the Champions League on Tuesday, he said: "Of course all of us believe we can go there and win. We're going there as number one and the aim is to stay number one.

"We are on top of the league so going into that game we just have to be confident and play our game as well as we have been doing.

"The pressure is still the same as it was last year. But what has changed is that we are now number one going into this derby.

"We don't have any point to prove. We've shown our quality throughout the season. We don't need a game against United to show how good we are but it's two of the best teams in England going up against each other and I expect it to be a great game."

Although United won the Community Shield, which is little more than a high-profile friendly, City beat United in the last competitive match between them, the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley in April.

A month after that City won their first trophy for 35 years when they beat Stoke City in the FA Cup final, and while De Jong knows City's recent past cannot compare to United's, he said: "You can't build a history of winning trophies over 25 years like United have done just in one year.

"There's more to come but we are building here step by step and that takes time. Maybe you don't get a lot of time when you are spending a lot of money on players. But still you need to go step by step -- that's how it has to be."

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