The Manchester Derby: Love or Hate?
Nervousness. Anxiety. Cold Sweats. Excitement. Insomnia. Just a few of the feelings I find myself going through on the build up to the biggest fixture of the calendar year for any Man City fan. As I sit here flicking through videos of Manchester derbies of the past, I feel compelled to share with you what it is that makes derby day so special and horrifying all at the same time.
One cliché you are guaranteed to hear during both sides pre-match press conferences is that ‘this is a game that fans really look forward to’. Yet I can’t help but feel that I wish it wasn’t this weekend. I wish we could delay this match, because to be honest, no matter how good City get, no matter what form United are in, this is a game I will always dread. This is a game in which anything can happen.
I’ve grown up watching a fairly modest City team over the years in comparison to what we have on display at the glorious Etihad Stadium. Yet despite the gulf in quality between City teams of the past and present I’m still able to look back at some glorious derby victories for the blue half of Manchester. Who will ever forget Shaun Goater mugging Neville in the corner and going on to slip it between the legs of Fabian Barthez? Who will ever forget Shaun Wright-Phillips pinging one in off the cross bar? Tricky Trev Sinclair on the swivel? Benjani off his shoulder? But for all those moments of absolute elation, comes some of utter despair. I can barely bring myself to type the ridiculous last minute deflected free-kick from Van Persie. Or the overhead shin etched into derby folk law forever. These are the moments that stick in your mind. For a man so utterly in love with this beautiful sport, a moment like this can ruin everything. No game optimises what I am describing to you more than the 4-3 of 2009 (which amazingly has it’s own Wikipedia page). One minute we are dancing on top of a pool table as Bellamy levels. The next I’m standing in the road with a bottle of Jack Daniels waiting for a bus to hit me.
You may think that’s a bit over the top but I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I mean I never really stood a chance. My first memory of a Manchester Derby was a City loss. City lead 2-0 until Eric Cantona turned it around for United. My old man simply wasn’t having it and took the matter into his own hands. He went outside and destroyed the garden shed. Completely knocked it down. In what can only be described as a bizarre turn of events, he told me that a kangaroo had entered our garden and knocked it down over night. I couldn’t of been any older than 5 or 6, I knew it wasn’t a Kangaroo because I’d seen him do it, but who am I argue with a man who’s just knocked down his own shed.
On the eve of the 168th Manchester Derby I can’t help but feel concerned going into the game. City haven’t reached the glittering form that graced the English Premier League last season. In some way this feels like a deja vu of the season in which City surrendered the title to their arch rivals United. Our dismal performance on Wednesday is the lowest moment of the season so far, and not exactly the form you want to see going into a derby game. United on the other hand are still growing under their new manager. There is no doubting the quality they have up top, however the defence makes them a team beatable by anyone in the league. They will however be buoyed by an unexpected last minute equaliser against Chelsea last weekend and with Spanish Dave Silva out of the City line-up they will come to the Etihad fancying their chances.
The only thing I’m sure of regarding tomorrow’s game is that there will be a large requisite for beer. Beer is your only friend on a day billed as ‘one for the fans’. The pre-match build up is well under way and to be honest I can’t bare the thought. My dreams have been dominated by this game. Derby day brings out the worst in me and I know I’m not alone in this. City win and life is good. City lose… well it doesn’t even bare thinking about, perhaps I’ll be off to smash someone’s shed up. Please City, spare me the heartbreak.