Heading into his first Manchester derby, David Moyes confirmed he is well aware of what the match means to the fans, but that ultimately it’s the impact that the result could have on the Premier League table at the end of the season that is all important.
Moyes has had a baptism of fire in the Manchester United dugout having already had to face fierce rivals Liverpool and Chelsea in the first month of the Premier League season. After taking just a solitary point from those two matches, United have beaten Crystal Palace before opening their Champions League campaign with an impressive 4-2 in over Bayer Leverkusen. And Moyes claims that his side will be going to the Etihad on Sunday with the intention of claiming victory.
“We’ve played well in the last few games and have got a bit of confidence and hopefully we’ll try and show that in the game on Sunday,” he said in his pre-match press conference.
“There is an excitement for any derbies in any big city in the world. They’re all really important to your own supporters. They’re important to the players as well but ultimately it’s about what happens come the end of the season and how many points you get together to see who is top. These points could be really important towards that, they may not be. We’ll go and we’ll try and take all the points.”
Of course, it will be a first experience of a Manchester derby too for Moyes’s opposite number, Manuel Pellegrini. And, like, Moyes, the Chilean has not enjoyed the most comfortable of starts to his tenure. Indeed, City have also dropped four points: surprisingly losing at Cardiff City before being frustrated in a goalless draw away to Stoke City last weekend. Pellegrini is equally concerned with the dual importance of the clash with City’s local rivals.
"I don't need to be here to know how important the derby against Manchester United is," he said at Friday’s press conference. "But working here and living here every day, of course, I know it is a special game. It is a match of six points. It is very important to win, and one of the most important teams you face.
"Manchester United will always be one of the teams always trying to win the league so playing at home against them is very important. It is more important to win. Of course if you can't win it's better not to lose but we will try to win. Every match against Manchester United is a special match. It's very important."
City did begin their Champions League campaign in fine fashion, with a 3-0 win away at Czech champions Viktoria Plzen. David Silva was again absent on Tuesday with a thigh injury, but the Spanish creator is set to return against United. Also likely to be back in contention is defender Micah Richards, while Gael Clichy faces a late fitness test.
United will have to wait on the fitness of Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones and Rafael. However, with Moyes stating that his side will have had plenty of recovery time since Tuesday’s clash with Leverkusen, a similar lineup looks on the cards.
Manchester City (probable)
D: Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy
M: Toure, Fernandinho
F: Aguero, Dzeko
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra
M: Carrick, Fellaini
Valencia, Rooney, Kagawa
F: Van Persie
Prediction: While both managers have talked boldly about their intention to go out and win the match, it looks set to be a cagey affair. Moyes’s poor record away at the big teams while at Everton spoke much for his conservative, reactionary tactics and he would likely take a point at the Eithad if offered it now.
There was reason for encouragement from the performance in midweek, however. Marouane Fellaini, while not the signing many hoped for, has still improved the center of midfield. And going forward Wayne Rooney looks as sharp as he has for a long time, while Antonio Valencia also appeared to regain some of his former confidence.
Still, the Premier League champions looked less than certain at the back and even against Crystal Palace a Rio Ferdinand error almost gifted a goal. The quickness of Sergio Aguero could give the less than pacey duo of Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic real problems. At the other end, the return of Vincent Kompany is a huge boost for Pellegrini, with City failing to strengthen at center-back as they should have in the summer.
It is in midfield where the key could well lie, though. Yaya Toure has on more than one occasion been the difference maker between these two sides in recent seasons as he exposed the lack of physicality in United’s midfield. Fellaini has been bought in large part to address that deficiency and Sunday will provide his first real test. Ultimately, this first derby of the season, coming so early, could prove to be more of a sparring match than a true battle for Manchester spoils.
Manchester City 1-1 Manchester United
Where to watch: The Manchester derby will kick-off from the Etihad at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.