Manchester - The stakes have never been so high for a Manchester derby.
Manchester United were once relegated after losing 1-0 at home to City
but results elsewhere on that day in May 1974 meant the Red Devils would
have gone down even without a back-heeled goal from former United
striker Denis Law.
This time around, the northwest neighbours' business is being conducted at the right end of the table.
were in control of their own destiny until Sunday's 4-4 draw against
Everton tipped the balance toward City, who can now win a first
championship since 1968 if they win their three remaining games.
given City the initiative; there's no question about that," United
manager Alex Ferguson said. "It makes the game at the Etihad Stadium a
really important game now. It makes it the title decider, really."
is still a week and almost an entire round of Premier League action
remaining before the northwest neighboors go head-to-head at City's
Etihad Stadium but the game is already dominating the sports pages in
the British press.
Even with two more matches for each team after
next week, the encounter is more important than any of the 44 Manchester
derbies Ferguson has previously been involved in.
"Definitely," Ferguson said.
looked to have a record 20th title in the bag after overhauling City
but they dropped five of the last nine available points and momentum now
seems to be with City, who already mauled United 6-1 at Old Trafford
this season for the worst defeat of Ferguson's 26 years in charge.
four goals mean United have conceded more goals at home than in any
league season since 1978-79, leaving Ferguson to emphasise spirit rather
"We make it hard for ourselves but we have to go
there knowing we're capable of getting a result," Ferguson said. "We
need to get a result now at the Etihad, there's no question about that.
There's no reason why we can't do that."
The one thing in United's favoor is the experience of the title winners in their ranks.
a huge game," Nani said. "It will be a difficult game, but if you want
to win the league you cannot think about the atmosphere or the
opponents, we must just think about the way we play and try to win the
"We have to keep believing in our qualities because we still have a great opportunity to win the title."
has been trying to suggest the pressure is on City because of their
players' relative inexperience and City manager Roberto Mancini has
seemed ready to embrace that diminished status despite his team's
greater financial muscle and depth of squad.
Mancini pointed out that there are still two more games for each side to clinch or throw away the title.
champions United host Swansea and finish at Sunderland, while City are
at fourth-place Newcastle before hosting Queens Park Rangers on the last
day of the season.
"We have another chance but they have a bigger
chance than us at this moment," Mancini said. "After the derby, the
games United have left are not as difficult as the ones we have to