As the 2017/18 season is gearing towards its first Manchester derby – the fixture this whole title race is almost entirely pivoted on, I decided to speak to Manchester City fan and freelance football writer Stephen Tudor to get his thoughts on how the game is viewed among the blues of Manchester and what Sunday’s 175th encounter between the two clubs could mean to the Northern Powerhouse of Manchester and the Premier League in general.
1. Both City and United have made an interesting start to the 2017/18 campaign, shall we say? City, in particular, have been… quite good so far, haven’t they? Tell us about the general mood among the fans – especially the ones who go week in week out, is there a sense of ‘we’ll do these today’ attitude most weeks now or is ‘typical city’ still an actual thing in Manchester?
For Blues of a certain age the fear of us snatching defeat from the jaws of victory will always lurk beneath the surface. That’s in our DNA. Now though its restricted to individual games rather than managers doing well or seasons going well.
Presently City fans are in dreamland and watching a standard of football we never thought possible. The general mood is buoyant and very confident going into each fixture and that is accompanied by a healthy dose of excitement. It’s notable that Blues are at pains to not appear arrogant though – I recently wrote about the possibility of an invincible season and the piece absolutely bombed!
2. Is the derby your biggest game of the season even now, in an era where Manchester City are certainly not the underdogs having had their fair share of victories over United?
I cannot imagine a realistic scenario where United isn’t our biggest game of the season. Old Trafford could be located on the other side of the country and it would still mean everything because you’ve won the PL 13 times and you’re up there challenging for the title with us now. Factor in the locality and history and this is significantly more than 90 minutes of football.
3. Favourite derby memories (I know I’m asking for it here)? And the worst you have ever had to endure in a Manchester derby.
For personal reasons, the 5-1 at Maine Road trumps the 6-1 at Old Trafford. I was at the first game at an age (15) when your support for your club is more obsessive than at any other time of your life. We were the underdogs but had five home-grown local lads in our team. I even found £20 – probably the equivalent of fifty quid back in ’89 – at the bus station on the way home. It was a perfect day!
The worse by some distance was the Owen 4-3. Match of the Day that evening tried to justify the wealth of added on time but those justifications weren’t apparent for any other game that season. Genuinely felt cheated that day and honestly believe that at least 10% of my celebration at the Aguero goal was a very belated response to it.
4. The attacking prowess at Guardiola’s disposal is bordering on illegal now. Where does this Man City side rank among the fans in terms of sheer quality?
It’s incomparable to anything else we’ve witnessed, even the first few months of 2011/12 that similarly saw us unbeaten until early December. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I have shaken my head in disbelief at the pinball passing and movement and its left me inordinately proud even though I have no cause for being proud because my only contribution is to turn up and believe we’re going to get done 0-1.
5. Let’s talk a bit about the match on Sunday then. Both sides have improved significantly over the summer and it is evident on the pitch. United are on a strong unbeaten run at Old Trafford – that stretches to 40 games in all competitions now with their last defeat coming against.. Manchester City. Are City fans confident of closing the loop now?
There is a possible scenario that City play the other-worldly football they have regularly served up these past couple of months and City not only win but do so in considerable style. That though is merely a possibility so it elicits hope not confidence.
Absolutely no way that I would ever feel confident prior to a derby. There has been a lot of guff and nonsense about United ‘parking the bus’ but that unfairly detracts from a side who have played some fantastic attacking football and looked frankly formidable at times.
6. Alright then. Prediction time. Who’s scoring the winner on Sunday?
Can we all agree on a draw please? No last-minute winner with the Stretford End going berserk. No seven minutes of added-on time. Just a nice shaking-hands-afterwards 1-1 then we can move on with our respective seasons.