With the start of a new year, we have started the vital second half of the season and both clubs will look to push on with their hunt for trophies, the main aim being the Premier League after disappointing shows in the Champions League means they only have Europa League football to play.
United's start to the new year has been bad, but by their high standards diabolical. Defeat to hopeless Blackburn was painful to watch for Ferguson, but every side can have a bad day at the office.
What would be more upsetting for Fergie, who recently reached the grand old age of 70, is that his side failed to produce any kind of performance just three days later. Previous United sides would have bounced back in admirable fashion, destroying teams with ease and determination that only Champions have, yet United crashed to a 3-0 defeat to a Newcastle who themselves have not been in great form recently.
United's side this year has a younger feel about it and it remains to be seen whether these players have the same fight in them that every other Ferguson assembled side has contained. Even experienced players have not been exempt from bad form. Rooney, who had been left out of the Blackburn defeat after breaking club rules, was especially disappointing and was hauled off before the final whistle. Ferdinand was reinstated into the side as well and repeatedly came off second best to Demba Ba.
Even Berbatov, who has been in lightning form recently raised questions over his ability to trouble more accomplished defences for United, which may explain why Sir Alex repeatedly leaves him out of the games carrying the biggest magnitude.
Whilst United have been struck yet again by horrendous injury problems, surely they should have assembled a squad able to cope with even this crisis. Valencia is a quality winger, and whilst some of these attacking instincts can work well from full-back, his defending at times is atrocious. Carrick too is a good squad player in midfield, but cannot be asked to regularly fill in at centre-back. Even their best play Wayne Rooney has played much of the season in central midfield, which, quite simply, wastes much of his talent.
Mancini's side also suffered a horrible result at Sunderland over the Christmas period, but in true Champions style, they bounced back. It may have not being the most stylish of performances form City's millionaires, but the 3-0 scoreline is better than many teams will get against Liverpool this season.
The big players stepped up. With Kompany and Yaya Toure inspiring the side onto a great result, against a resurgent Liverpool side. Toure's performance inspired memories of Patrick Vieira at his best, tearing apart challenging midfield's at will and willing his teammate's to win. But now Yaya, and his brother Kolo - who has recently regained his place in central defence - are away for up to two months.
They will be missed greatly in the blue half of Manchester. Starting with tomorrow's show-piece event but also important matches in the League cup semi final, and Premier League games too. Even Mancini is starting to feel the strain of a title challenge campaign, complaining over the lack of depth in his squad which cost £300 million to assemble.
City could only have one fit striker and two central midfielder's fit for tomorrow's game, whilst the owners' aim to comply with the financial fair play regulations could mean the Italian will not be able to rely on new additions until the summer. Ferguson too may not be making additions to his depleted squad. Repeatedly he has said that he will not spend bucket loads of cash in the current inflated market, but with his side needing reinforcements, especially creativity in the middle of the park, he may break his promise this January.
The winners tomorrow will win the pride of the city for the mean time, but the real question is: Who will win the title? the only answer is that it's too soon to say. United have the experience of numerous title challenges year after year, but City has the hunger, and the upper edge over their rivals at the moment.
Tottenham too, may have a say in things, whilst Sunderland, Newcastle and Blackburn have recently showed that any teams can cause an upset. Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool also have the talent to beat the top two - although bar an incredible turnaround the title is surely out of reach for them.
What is certain is that this rivalry will be the most engrossing battle for the rest of the season. Starting with tomorrow.
Written by Will Jones
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