Date:Friday May 4 2007
Just three days after a shattering European disappointment, we're due to play a derby at the Eastlands - time to show some character I believe.
I do not want to waste my words for Wednesday's shambles of a game so let's state that we had been outclassed, deservedly beaten. What I want to stress now is the importance of forgetting this quickly.
Usually, it's not an enviable task to face United after such a setback. We had been beaten twice in a row before we stormed back to crush Roma 7-1, with all the disappointment and frustration of the previous week poured into that game.
But we have to go back for a while to find a really comparable situation. For all the recent years' disappointing European performances, last time we had been taught such a comprehensive footballing lesson had been four years ago when we had been beaten by Real Madrid 3-1 at the Bernabeu, with the Spaniards giving a performance that had left the critics in awe. We had a pretty tricky game afterwards, facing Newcastle at St. James' Park when the Barcodes were still in with a chance to win the league.
Well, despite all the gravediggers queuing up around Old Trafford, we responded in style that day. Newcastle's hopes were blown away as they were brushed aside 6-2 with a magnificent performance that sent a loud and clear message to North London - and we never relinquished our grip on the title afterwards.
Something similar is needed now. City are not involved in the title race (but I would have told you as much without looking at the league table in the last 30 years) but they will be desperate to save something from their disastrous season by winning their last home against a team they consider their rivals and they will be motivated by the chance of denting our title hopes.
City are in a real mess right now. They have not scored in their last 7 home games, this miserable sequence stretches back to New Year's Day. As you may know, Joey Barton has been suspended for beating up his own team-mate, Ousmane Dabo who is likely to miss the game as a result of the injuries he suffered in the fracas with Barton.
I don't know that the Scousers' absence is a blessing or not. Of course, he's one of those players who have the extra motivation to beat United, being a Scouser and a City player as well, and he has the physical strength and rough streak that can unsettle even the quality players. He's a git, no doubt about that but his values as a footballer should not be underestimated so his removal might cost them dearly.
However, it is possible that it has a liberating effect, that it will be like a contamination isolated and destroyed. They will be fired up to show, that despite all the turmoil, they can be a match for anyone.
Having said all that, I think it matters little in the end. A great deal depends on our own mental state but if we can switch our focus quickly, then we'll be fine. City are a desperately poor side this season and our raw quality should be enough to beat them handily.
It will be interesting to see who Fergie selects. The boss said, with apparent relief, that he finally has the chance to make some changes from our midweek game. Louis Saha, Alan Smith, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand all have a chance to start despite neither of them was on the field in the first minute at the San Siro. I would drop Fletcher, opt for a 4-4-2 with Giggs and Ronaldo on the wings, Saha and Rooney up front and let's go and attack them. I mean, the title is there for the taking now so surely that's a strong motivation?
With Vidic and Rio back, United should not worry about City's attacking play - the latter does not exist for a while now. So, to answer my headline, yes, I believe we can recover.
Prediction: 3-1 United. We'll be magnanimous, gifting them a goal that prevents City to set a record of the lowest scoring home team in the history of the Premiership. With a goal, they will heroically equal Sunderland's record of last year - and the Black Cats went down with a record low points tally!
Date:Friday May 4 2007
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