ManUtd.com has assembled a trio of experts to dissect the title race before each round of fixtures. This week, United legend and MUTV pundit Denis Irwin gives us his thoughts on the big one at the Etihad...
I was fortunate to play in 13 Manchester derbies and they were always massive games. But this is the one. This is the biggest I’ve ever known. It’s the first time City have ever challenged for the title in the Premier League era and to have the game so late in the season means there’s an awful lot at stake. As I say they’re always big games and they’ve got bigger in the last few years but this one is off the Richter scale in terms of importance!
There’s no doubt both sets of players will be nervous. If you’re not nervous before a game like this there’s something wrong with you. It’s human nature to have nerves in this situation. Everyone will have them – the manager, the players and fans. It’s how you handle them that’s important.
The manager certainly won’t let any nerves show. I always remember him being very calm in the lead-up to big matches. He’ll just be telling the players about the importance of playing our own game and trying to stamp our authority on proceedings. In terms of our approach I know we’ll be going out to win the game. Yes, a draw is a decent result but it’s not in our nature to go anywhere and play for a draw. We’ve never done that before and we can’t start doing it now. We’ve got to play our normal game and just see how the game pans out. I think it’ll be pretty tight early on, but I expect it to open up a bit in the second half.
I honestly don’t know how we’ll line up. The manager might well go with five in midfield but I don’t see that as a negative move, I see it as a tactic to try to control that area of the park. There’s no doubt City have good players throughout their team… Silva, Kompany, Tevez, but Sergio Aguero is the man to watch for me. He’s had a fantastic season and City will be looking to him for goals.
I’ve heard people say there’s more pressure on City because they have to win, but there’s pressure on both teams. We have the added pressure of being away from home. The first 20 minutes of these types of games are always important and you need cool heads during that period. Our players have a lot of experience of being involved in situations like this and