Ahead of the Manchester derby, Manchester United boss David Moyes is eager for his team to show that they still have the quality to mix it with the best. The Premier League champions go into the meeting with Manchester City at Old Trafford on Tuesday trailing their local rivals by 12 points and having played two games more. United have also lost convincingly to City, Liverpool and Chelsea this season, but Moyes believes the derby presents a chance for his players to prove that there is no great gulf in quality.
"We go out to win every game, not just the derby game, it’s not any different. But obviously it means a lot more to supporters and it means a lot in the city, if we win,” he said in his pre-match press conference.
"We want to try and perform better in the bigger games than what we’ve done. It will be important for us to show the level of what we’ve got. And I think we have got the level, and that we are not as far away as many people would have us. And I have no doubt it will improve. We want to show we are still in there fighting.”
Manchester United’s past two results have, not for the first time this season, inspired talk of a corner being turned. After beating Olympiakos 3-0 to make the last eight of the Champions League, they produced an assured performance to down West Ham 2-0 on Saturday. That result was made more impressive by it being achieved with a make-shift defense featuring Michael Carrick at center-back. While Nemanja Vidic remains suspended and Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans injured, Moyes hopes that Rio Ferdinand will recover from a back problem to partner Phil Jones. Patrice Evra will come back in at left-back after being rested.
Manchester City will get a boost at the heart of their defense, with captain Vincent Kompany returning from his suspension. Unlike their neighbors, City have much more to play for than just pride. City go into the game six points off the Premier League summit, but with three games in hand on leaders Chelsea. The destination of the title is in their hands. If it is to remain that way, though, then they will have to successfully negotiate a tricky run of away games that begins on Tuesday and continues with trips to face both Arsenal and Liverpool in the next three weeks. Pellegrini believes that no longer being in the Champions League or FA Cup will help his side in the final stretch of the title race.
"I think they are very motivated to try to win the title," Pellegrini said about his squad. "All of us wanted to always stay in every competition but when you are eliminated [from other competitions]one of the positive things, if you can find a positive thing, is that we are now just focusing on the league so we don't have problems physically or mentally. We are just trying to fight for the title.”
City returned to goal-scoring form with a 5-0 victory over Fulham on Saturday where Yaya Toure struck a hat-trick. Still, Alvaro Negredo continued his goal drought to leave Pellegrini with a dilemma over whether to start the Spaniard or Edin Dzeko at Old Trafford. Sergio Aguero remains out injured, with City’s only other absentee being defender Matija Nastasic.
Where to watch: The Manchester derby will kick off at 3.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.