By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports writer
There will be drama.
There will be a lot of shouting
There will be rash tackles.
There will be cards.
There may even be a bit of blood.
The Manchester Derby has always made compulsive viewing. Even before it became a key fixture in deciding the destination of the league title, it was almost invariably packed with incident, drama and people arguing over the musical and swaggery eyebrow prowess of Oasis and the Stone Roses.
One thing that does stand out is the absolute knife-edge that the game has been balanced upon in recent times. Seven of the last eight matches have been decided by one goal margins and the trend endures beyond that with 14 of the last 18 derbies going the same way.
In those dark days when Manchester City didn’t have the boost of a hefty Emirati chequebook behind them and Paul Dickov counted as a major signing, they could still muster together enough resources to be a consistent pain in the arse to United sides that were generally hoovering up Premier League titles. When it came to the Derby, the gap was never that pronounced and since the influx of money and talent to City things have tightened up even further.
Here’s a look at the last 20 Manchester Derbies in all competitions to see if there are patterns we can expect to see this time around.
Only eight of the last 20 derbies have been relatively humdrum affairs featuring neither a late goal or a sending off. And the important word is ‘relatively’ because all bar the 0-0 draw in 2010, the other featured goals and a winner. They may not have featured the type of melodrama we come to expect from years of watching Dream Team, but they were generally entertaining games with plenty to keep us watching.
Of late, it’s been worth sticking it out until the end and enduring the traffic jams and smug faces of victorious rival fans because there’s frequently some late drama. Nine of the last 20 derbies have featured at least one goal after the 80th minute and many of those featured more than one. Last season, Samir Nasri’s complete failure to grasp the purpose of standing upright in a defensive wall gave United a last gasp win in a pulsating match at the Emirates and more of the same would be about as surprising as David Moyes giving the referee a bollocking at some stage during the match. It’s 13/8 that a goal is scored by either side from the 81st minute.
Play your cards right
The referee may not need to take a box full of Bic biros with him for the match, but no doubt he’ll be kept busy with at least a few bookings over the course of the 90 minutes plus whatever time Fergie can still wangle through telekinesis from the Directors’ box. Six of the last 20 derbies featured at least one red card and considering that stretch included a number of games featuring Paul Scholes, that seems surprisingly low.
You don’t need to break out the iPhone calculator to figure out that’s roughly one red card every three Manchester Derbies and as the last three derbies have passed off without a player getting their marching orders, it suggests a card is on the way and Manchester Derby debutant Marouane Fellaini is 25/1 to see red.
We’ll have a winner
There’s a puzzling lack of draws in the fixture in the last few years. Just one of the last 20 derbies have finished in a stalemate. With seven of the last eight matches being decided by a one-goal margin, it’s clearly been close, but for some reason, one team has generally managed to grab the win.
Home advantage is an advantage, but again, not as much as you might expect. Eleven of the last 20 derbies have gone the way of the home team, but two of those were played at neutral venues and shouldn’t really count as the only advantage was getting the home changing room and first dibs on the half time Lucozade bottles. Away teams have won eight times and although United account for the majority of those (5), City have managed plenty of their own (3). United to win by exactly one goal is 4/1 while City to win by the same margin is an 11/4 shot.
The addition of two managers unfamiliar with the fixture adds an air of uncertainty to the game, but one thing we’re almost guaranteed is a feisty afternoon.