The title race in the English Premier League (EPL) was made open last Sunday when the league leader Manchester United blew up a two-goal lead to draw at Old Trafford with Everton, and rivals Manchester City beat bottom placed Wolves 2-0 to narrow Alex Ferguson’s side lead on top of the table to just three points, leaving the local derby between the two sides at the Etihad Stadium on Monday to determine where the 2011/2012 Premier League trophy will go.
Second placed City has better goal difference than leaders, Manchester United, which means the destiny of the title race is still within the hands of both teams in what is proving to be a thrilling climax to the season. “It’s a derby of amazing proportions -- probably the most important derby game in my time,” said Alex Ferguson, who took over Manchester United in 1986.
Leaders, Manchester United two weeks ago appeared to be coasting to their 20th EPL title after title rivals, City lost at Arsenal to widen the points gap between them to seven, but the 1-0 loss to relegation strugglers, Wigan and the 4-4 thriller with Everton on Sunday has given Roberto Mancini’s side opportunity to leapfrogging their greatest rivals for the title.
City currently enjoy a six goal difference advantage and a win on Monday will catapult them to the top of the table. “We’ve given Manchester City the initiative and there is no doubt about that. It makes the game at the Etihad a really important game, a decider really. There has been expectancy from City that it could be their decider, but it’s our decider too.
There were defensive lapses. It was a travesty of a result in some ways, but we made it difficult for ourselves and if you look at our history we keep doing that. We’ve thrown a game away that we should be coasting. But we didn’t so we have given ourselves a difficult task,” Alex Ferguson said ahead of the match.
But for Roberto Mancini it is another opportunity to win the title. “I am pleased with this form but now we have three very difficult games, it could not be more difficult. We are there - I think they have a bigger chance, more than us at this moment.
But we have another chance. We needed to win the game. I think it is important to win this game.”
The first leg meet between the two sides this season at Old Trafford ended with City celebrating one of the biggest wins in the fixture’s history. They humiliated a 10-man Reds 6-1. United had never conceded so many at home in the competition.
Two goals each from Italian striker, Mario Balotelli and German forward, Edin Dzeko respectively and one each from Sergio Aguero and David Silva completed the October 23rd, 2011 agony for Alex Ferguson’s squad. Jonny Evans’ dismissal with City 1-0 ahead and the whole second half to be played did the home side no favours, but there could be no argument that Mancini’s side fully deserved victory.
The 1–6 score was the biggest defeat suffered by Manchester United against City at Old Trafford since the 0–5 loss in 1955. It was also the first time since 1926 that City had scored six at Old Trafford, when the score that day also finished 1–6, whereas United have never scored six against City in any league or major cup game.
United and City met for the second time in the season in the third round of the FA Cup, resulting in a 3-2 win for United.
The scoring opened in the tenth minute when Wayne Rooney headed neatly past stand-in keeper Costel Pantilimon, before Vincent Kompany received a highly contentious red card in the 12th minute for a tackle on Nani. United went 3-0 up by half time, and successfully battled off a second half comeback from City in which they scored twice. The game was notable for the re-emergence of Paul Scholes, who came out of retirement and replaced Nani in the 59th minute.
As of today, 28th April, 2012, there have been 162 competitive meetings between the two teams. United have won 68 and City 44, the remaining 50 games finishing as draws.
The biggest victories have been to City who have won 1-6 on two occasions in the official league (both times in the away fixture at Old Trafford) on 23 January 1926 and 23 October 2011.
But on the 14 April 1941 during a war league derby match at Maine Rd, United beat City 7-1, which remains the biggest victory between the two sides overall, this result has been omitted as the official league was suspended, but the derby still continued.
Both teams have won 5–0 once (City in 1955, United in 1994). The largest attendance for a Manchester derby was 78,000 on 20 September 1947, a time when both clubs were playing at Maine Road, as Old Trafford was being repaired following damage sustained in the Second World War.