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Man oh Man, it's on

Famous Manchester Derby even more highly-anticipated than usual

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The Manchester Derby is already among the most-watched sporting events in the world, but Sunday's contest between local rivals City and United is being even more highly anticipated than usual.

 

Here's why:

1 The match, which will kick off at 10 a.m. (Sportsnet), will be the first since 1986 in which Sir Alex Ferguson won’t be involved. On that Sunday afternoon in October, United was managed by Ron Atkinson, their bus driver sat on the City bench and the fixture — their 118th meeting — was broadcast live on television for the first time.

 

2 Ferguson is hardly gone from the scene. The recently retired manager is now a director at the club, and on Thursday he told United’s inhouse television station that Wayne Rooney had been "fantastic" mid-week against Bayer Leverkusen — that the playmaker’s performance had been "encouraging. He said: "He’s back to what we always remember him as."

 

3 Rooney, like Ferguson said, is in tremendous form. He has so far scored three goals in four matches in all competitions this season and has assisted on two others. Against Leverkusen he touched the ball 64 times and completed an astonishing 97 per cent of his passes while attempting seven shots at target. It was Rooney at his absolute best

 

4 The Rooney-Ferguson feud is still very much on. The ex-manager’s comments may have been designed to sooth the moody attacker, but Rooney still harbours ill will against Ferguson — a bad feeling that goes back several years. Just last season he was dropped by Ferguson against Real Madrid, and in May the Scot suggested the England international had requested a transfer — a claim that proved to be untrue.

Rooney’s angling for a move to Chelsea during the summer was largely down to Ferguson’s continued involvement at Old Trafford as a director.

 

5 Rooney’s exceptional form has so far been matched by Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, and which of the two has the better performance on Sunday will likely have more than a thing to do with the result. Aguero scored once and assisted on another on Tuesday against Viktoria Plzen, and in four Premier League matches he has scored once, assisted once and completed 90 per cent of his passes while operating as one-half of a deadly striking tandem alongside Eden Dzeko.

 

6 David Silva, who was initially expected to miss out on the derby due to a thigh strain, now looks set to play from the very beginning, meaning City will have a pair of Spaniards on the flanks — the other being Jesus Navas.

It could be a long, long day for the United fullbacks, expected to be Chris Smalling and Patrice Evra.

 

7 United striker Danny Welbeck (knee) faces a late fitness test, and while he has been in blistering form so far this season it’s unlikely he’ll displace the purple-patching Rooney even if he passes it. That said, while the 22-year-old’s pair of Premier League goals have been important to the cause, a closer examination of statistics reveals he has completed 86 per cent of his passes in the high-risk attacking third and is averaging four defensive actions per match.

 

8 The Yaya Toure-Marouane Fellaini matchup will be especially compelling. Both are versatile midfielders who typically sit deep but are comfortable coming forward, and both are absolutely vital to their respective side’s buildup play. Toure is responsible for stitching things together in City’s 4-2-2-2 setup while Fellaini — United’s summer signing — has shown in two appearances just what the Red Devils have been missing in their midfield for years. He touched the ball 102 times against Leverkusen.

 

9 This will be the first Manchester Derby for both City manager Manuel Pellegrini and United boss David Moyes. Both have had their wobbles in the early days of their new jobs, but both oversaw convincing victories in the Champions League during the week.

 

10 The Derby’s global audience will likely surpass 700 million viewers, making it the most-watched, non-international sporting event of 2013 — just as it was in 2012.

 

jerradpeters@gmail.com Twitter @JerradPeters

jerradpeters@gmail.com Twitter @JerradPeters

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2013 C8

History

Updated on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 9:41 AM CDT: adds missing text

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