7th April 2013
What should have been a title-decider is now nothing more than a battle for prestige, with Manchester United going into the game with a 15-point cushion at the Premier League summit. Having recorded a 6-1 win last time they visited Old Trafford, Manchester City hope to beat their arch rivals once again and thus made amends for the 3-2 defeat earlier in the season.
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has every reason to be satisfied with team’s impressive displays in the Premier League, but not everything has been going according to plan this season. The Red Devils allowed themselves to be eliminated from the remaining three competitions, with Monday’s defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup likely to have a destabilizing effect. In all fairness, United were terribly unlucky to be eliminated from the Champions League, although I doubt they would have won the title even if they had gone through. The main objective now is to continue the rich vein of form in the league and thus build a good foundation for the 2013/2014 season. That will be no easy task, especially with the 6-1 defeat still ringing in their ears, but having won at Etihad earlier in the season and with several important players returning to the side, United do look like favourites here. Wayne Rooney and Rafael are both expected to start after resuming full training, but Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans face fitness tests.
This season has gone horribly wrong for Manchester City, who just couldn’t match their bitter rivals despite again investing considerable funds into reinforcing the playing squad. I am really at pain to explain why Roberto Mancini still has the backing of club chiefs and fans when he has done so poorly given the quality of his squad. City not only finished bottom of their Champions League group, but were eliminated from the Capitol One Cup and are trailing United 15 points in the league standings, so it is fair to say this season will be deemed a failure even if they end up winning the FA Cup trophy. The Citizens may have been pretty impressive at Etihad this season, albeit struggling against top sides even at home, but their showings on the road have been utterly disappointing. Despite mostly playing the relegation strugglers, City could only pick up four points from last four matches on the road, which is enough to suggest that they face a difficult task at Old Trafford. David Silva, Matija Nastasic and Samir Nasri are back in contention, but Jack Rodwell, Micah Richards and Douglas Maicon continue to miss out.
Manchester United have beaten their rivals in two of three encounters since the infamous 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford, and it is important to note that all those games were played at Etihad, where City are supposedly a force to be reckoned with. Given that Roberto Mancini’s side largely struggle on the travels, another United victory looks on the cards.
Verdict: Home win Manchester United (1)
Best Odds: 13/10
Bookmaker: Paddy Power