It remains to be seen if the new managers of the two Manchester clubs could render a new twist to the good-old Manchester derby, after both clubs took a new turn in the summer with their appointments.
David Moyes took charge of the Reds following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson while Manuel Pellegrini replaced the ousted Roberto Mancini at the Etihad.
Sunday’s Premier League meeting between the two city rivals at the Etihad Stadium isn’t the first occasion the Scot and the Chilean have to lock horns and trade tactics.
In charge of Villareal in 2005, Pellegrini’s side ended Moyes’ hope of a first Champions League campaign in the third qualifying round and went on to reach the semi-finals of that year’s competition. But the United manager insists the controversy surrounding referee Pierluigi Collina’s decision that night handed his Everton team the defeat, stressing they stretched ‘The Yellow Submarines.’
“Villareal had a really good team in 2005. They got to the semi-final that year, so for us to run them close gave you an idea what a good side we had at Everton. It did rankle because we thought we scored a legitimate goal in extra-time,” Moyes explained, talking about Duncan Ferguson’s disallowed late header for an apparent infringement.
United enters into the Matchday 5 duel in the wake of two impressive home victories against Crystal Palace (2-0) in the league and Bayern Leverkusen (4-2) in the Champions League. Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie both scored in the games.
Aside from midweek away victory over Viktoria Plzen in Europe, last weekend’s goalless draw at Stoke City, again undermined ‘The Blues’s’ preparedness to mount on the title challenge bandwagon heads on. Nevertheless, they sit on top of their neighbours on goal difference with Sunday’s derby believed to be a turning point.
“I don’t have to be here to realise how important this match is- working and living here, I know it’s a special game,” Pellegrini, 60, said at a news conference.
“Football in England is important and the most important thing is that the fans enjoy the game and I’m sure we’re going to have a good match.”
Having played for Rangers against Celtic in Scotland and also witnessing Everton and Liverpool’s Merseyside derby from the dugout, Moyes said it presents him the opportunity to visualise the prospects of a spicy derby.
“I’ve experienced derby games in Glasgow and Merseyside, but there is excitement for any derbies in any big city in the world. They’re really important to the team you support and I understand how important it is to Manchester United supporters,” said the 50-year-old Scot.
“Everyone realizes the passion there between the supporters and the commitment the players are required to show.”
Moyes won five of his ten trips to the Etihad Stadium in charge of the Toffees but Pellegrini thinks the statistics doesn’t change the fact his team has to deliver come Sunday.
“It’s not my duty to analyse Manchester United,” the Chilean added. David Moyes is a very good manager but I don’t want to analyse Manchester United.
“It’s impossible not to be under a lot of pressure taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson, but I think that is a good way to work.
“It’s very important to win it and we must win it.”
Moyes on his own part is contended his team has managed to sit in the top quarter of the log, despite a difficult start to the season when they had to face three of the top five contenders in the space of five weeks.
“We had to find some form early because we’ve had the hardest start of the top clubs in the Premier League, s we had to make sure we had a decent points total and we still have.
“We’ve got City to play but after that we’ve played two or three of our big rivals and they still have each other to play,” added Moyes.
City captain Vincent Kompany came through his comeback unscathed in midweek and will play on Sunday, but fellow centre-back Martin Demichelis is a long-term casualty due to a knee injury.
Midfielder David Silva is a doubt for the derby game after two games out with a thigh injury. Micah Richards (hamstring) is back in training after missing the start of the season and could be in contention but left-back Gael Clichy is out.
Moyes gave no updates on absentees Rafael da Silva (hamstring), Danny Welbeck (knee) and Phil Jones (ankle), after the trio missed midweek Champions League victory.
Luis Nani is available for selection and Moyes look set to plunge Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand into their third match in a week for the first time since 2010.
Referee Howard Webb, who has not issued any red card so far this season, will take charge of the Manchester derby.