Date:Friday May 4 2007
Manchester United can win the Premiership title on a ground where we've had mixed experiences since City's promotion in 2002.
Surely you know the song ending with the line 'Who the f*** is Alice?'. In the last decade, it's been very popular with United fans who sang gleefully that 'It's six points a season when you're living next door to City'.
However, you must go back a long time to find a season when it had been true. It did not happen in the last five years so we must be cautious ahead of tomorrow's game even though the season's second victory over 'The Massive' would virtually seal the league title for us.
So let's have a look at each of the seasons passed since City'd been promoted in 2002.
2002/03: United reached the League Cup final, put on a thrilling display in the Champions League quarters against Real and won the league but the derbies are to forget. In the last ever derby played at Maine Road we were at our spectacular worst, unable to resist Nicolas Anelka and, erm, Shaun Goater. At Old Trafford, we were in total control but profligacy costed us dearly as the Premiership's as Goater struck again, denying us a victory in the closing minutes.
2003/04: At Old Trafford we put on a good display to see them off 3-1 (Kleberson played well so that match was always going to be memorable...) and in the FA Cup we were down to ten man for the entire second half but still spanked them 4-2 but it was all undone in spectacular fashion as we produced the worst derby performance since 1989 and lost 4-1 at the new City of Manchester-stadium. We were two down in no time at all, pulled one back and hit the post but in the second half we were in suicidal mode again to complete our own humiliation.
2004/05: It was a sad, frustrating season for United but not as sad as the derby was for Richard Dunne who played a major role in both our goals that brought our first-ever victory at the Eastlands. But it was scant consolation for a trophyless season and for a frustrating encounter at the Theatre of Dreams where we just couldn't put the ball into the net, no matter how many chances we created.
2005/06: Yet another derby heartbreak: at Old Trafford, after an international break we were suffering throughout 90 minutes, lacking any imagination and verve but were still ahead until the start of the last quarter of an hour when Andy Cole (eurgh!) equalised to become the first man to beat Van der Sar that season. At the Eastlands, they scored two from offside and Ronaldo was sent off more than harshly while young Jordan avioded at least two certain bookings but that cannot hide the fact that Patrice Evra had such an embarassing debut that he had to be substituted at the interval.
As you see, we have a lot of things to play for, apart from the small matter of winning the league. Winning December's derby at Old Trafford was sweet but the real medicine to years' of disappointments and a European Cup exit would be a victory at the Eastlands.
Date:Friday May 4 2007
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