Friday, 15 April 2011

The Mancunian way........

Tomorrow will be my first ever visit to Wembley to see City. Yes, that's right. I'm 40 years old and I've never seen them at Wembley. In fact, I waited so long to see them play there they have demolished and rebuilt it in the meantime.

In 1981, I was too young to go to the FA Cup final against Tottenham without parental supervision. My Dad is a United fan though like the rest of my United supporting family, he doesn't go to matches, so watching City was never going to happen either. I watched the centenary cup final on the TV and along with the mental scars, I still have the programme a mate brought back for me from the game.

In 1999, despite watching every single game home and away that season, my first wife insisted on going on an expensive, previously booked holiday to Cuba. To say that decision caused some tension would be like saying Gary Neville was not necessarily my favourite football player. The game against Gillingham entailed listening to the drama unfold through a mobile phone at a cost that still makes me wince to this very day. In  no small part due to the fact I missed watching the literal phoenix rise from the proverbial flames, we divorced almost immediately afterwards.

So at 6am tomorrow, we will head off for the weekend to the biggest Manchester Derby in my lifetime. It feels like we say that every time we play each other but for me tomorrow is unquestionably the biggest yet. It represents a chance to really prove that we are changing the mentality of our club and that we represent a new force in English football that will consistently challenge for honours and in doing so beat the very best.

The hype is understandably at fever pitch and for once I think it's merited. I've never been to a derby game where there have been 35,000 of each set of fans. Normally in the league the away team usually receives 5,000 tickets or so, making away fans noisy yet outnumbered . Tomorrow I suspect you will not be able to hear yourself think inside the stadium. Add to that the fact that the early evening kick off means a good percentage of the people in the stadium will have been drinking for most of the day and so the atmosphere should be electric. I intend to be fairly electric myself.

Injuries and suspensions have made the game even more interesting and I genuinely think this game is far more evenly poised than some of the media have made out over the course of the last few days. A common view prevails in the press and radio and TV media that United have more experience of big games and their aspiration to achieve a double or a treble will see their quality overcome their noisy neighbours.

Unsurprisingly, I'm not convinced. I think there are a number of City's squad that have a point to prove, especially after Mondays inept performance against Liverpool. They have faced accusation that they are overly, if not wholly reliant on the injured Carlos Tevez and certainly the statistics support the fact that we are far more successful with him than without him. However, it seems to me that we are overdue a real team performance capped by some outstanding individual performances and providing Mancini plays him, I expect one of those to come from Mario Balotelli. He of the gloved hat.

Much has been written and reported about him. His petulance bordering on stupidity, his inability to come to terms with simple training garments, his seemingly endless capacity to self-destruct. Tomorrow will be his opportunity to prove that these are just the foibles of youth and that they are far outweighed by the force of  his prodigious talent. He is as exciting a prospect as I have ever seen, he just needs to prove himself on a big stage and there really aren't many bigger than tomorrow.

We're staying over  in nearby Harrow so tomorrow night I'll either be celebrating a famous victory in London somewhere or sulking in my hotel room. My feeling is that City will be victorious by either 2 or 3 goals to a solitary reply from United. Of course as a City fan, I fully expect us to lose the final in four weeks time but one day a Manchester City team will prove my inert pessimism outdated and I'll go and tear down that banner at Old Trafford myself.

Maybe, this is the one........

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