Monday night’s Manchester derby looks as if it may decide the destination of the Premier League trophy for this season, with City and United separated by just three points with three games to go. A home win is vital for the blue half of Manchester as they are trailing their rivals, and I feel there are five areas where the game will be won and lost, five key battles that could potentially decide the outcome of the title.
David Silva v Michael Carrick
It is no secret that David Silva has somewhat lost his early season form that earned him significant plaudits with football fans everywhere putting him on par with the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi among the best midfielders in the world. On the other hand, Michael Carrick has been an unsung hero for Manchester United this season, quietly going about his work and in partnership with Paul Scholes becoming the top central midfield pairing in the country. Silva’s stunning individual performance at Old Trafford earlier this season was possibly the best I have seen from a player this campaign and it is up to Carrick to prevent the Spanish play-maker from running the game.
Vincent Kompany v Wayne Rooney
Two of the best players in the division this season and last, Vincent Kompany and Wayne Rooney are the heart and souls of their sides and if they have a good game, the rest usually follow. Rooney is on terrific form and depending on which formation Sir Alex goes with, could be in a deeper role than usual on Monday night that could cause City all kinds of problems. Kompany’s organisation and communication skills will have to be at their best to ensure someone is always with the United striker. If Rooney can get the better of Kompany just once or twice, that could be game and title over for City.
Micah Richards v Nani
The return to fitness and form of Nani could come at a perfect time for United. With Ashley Young in the headlines for the wrong reasons, the match winning talent of Nani is one that City will have to heavily plan against. Micah Richards should return from a knee injury that saw him miss City’s win over Wolves last week and his physical presence may be exactly what is needed to stop Nani causing them all sorts of problems. With Euro 2012 now not too far away, it is also time for Richards to prove he can deal with the best wingers in Europe and that he should be on the plane.
Sergio Aguero v Jonny Evans
Without doubt for me City’s signing of the season, Sergio Aguero has adapted to English football brilliantly and is a constant threat in every game he plays scoring an impressive 29 goals in 45 appearances for the Blues in his debut season. However, one of the Premier League’s most improved players this season, Jonny Evans could be the man to deal with Aguero after an impressive season deputising for the injured Nemanja Vidic. With doubts surrounding the future of Rio Ferdinand, suddenly Jonny Evans has become first choice at centre back for United and hasn’t let them down. However, not many, if any, defenders in the Premier League have been able to stop Aguero having a big impact on the outcome of games, so it is definitely a dual to watch carefully.
Gael Clichy – Antonio Valencia
It seems that Gael Clichy has made the left back spot more or less his own now at City after constant switching with Aleksander Kolarov throughout the season. Monday however, will be his toughest test of the season so far in the league up against arguable the in-form winger in the division. Antonio Valencia has been sensational in the second half of the season since returning from injury and is usually at the heart of everything good going forward for United but equally does his defensive duties well. Both of these players will no doubt be up and down the pitch for the full 90 minutes and fitness may be the factor as to who comes out on top here.
But who will come out on top?
Let me know on Twitter: @Brad_Pinard