Derby Day: Let Battle Commence

manchester derby ferguson mancini
The two manager clash in last season's derby at the Ethiad Photo: PA

Manchester prepares for the first derby of the season and both managers are relishing the challenge of another season-long battle for the Premier League crown.

City boss Roberto Mancini has no concerns about his players' big-match temperament ahead of the much-hyped derby.

The champions have struggled to replicate the intensity of last season's dramatic title run-in at the start of the defence of their Barclays Premier League crown.

The pressure is now on again as City, trailing by three points, battle with leaders United for top spot and local pride on Sunday but Mancini is far from worried.

City are still unbeaten in the Premier League and Mancini said: "Against Chelsea we dominated the game and were missing only a goal.

"Against Arsenal we deserved to win and they scored only in the last 10 minutes.

"With all the problems we had from the start of the season, to be there, only three points behind United, is a good thing in this moment.

"I don't think we have the same qualities we had last season in the first 15 games but I think this year we had big problems with players injured."

Mancini also feels the task of defending a title is much harder than winning it for the first time.

He said: "I think it is difficult in every country to win two titles in a row but to win here is very, very difficult.

"This is normal. This can happen to a young team like us that won its championship after 40 (44) years.

"The day after is more difficult because you need to work more.

"The first thing is to forget everything you did until here and work more because it is normal that it is more difficult the second year.

"We want to try because we are champions and we need to defend this title."

City's stunning 6-1 win at Old Trafford last season ultimately proved crucial in the final count as the title was settled on goal difference.

Mancini said: "It was important for us because we played the first derby away and we won 6-1.

"There are some important games that can change your season and the derby was one of the first games like this for us.

"They have three points more than us and they have a small advantage but a derby is a really difficult match for both teams, and it is important."

manchester derby ferguson mancini
Clashing during City's 1-0 win last season Credit: PA
manchester derby ferguson mancini
High drama and high emotions are never far away in Manchester Credit: PA
manchester derby ferguson mancini
The pair during more amicable times Credit: PA

Sir Alex Ferguson insists he has the numbers to cope ahead of the game.

The Manchester United boss has confirmed Anderson, Nani and Antonio Valencia will miss the Etihad Stadium encounter.

In addition, Ferguson has claimed the game will come too soon for Japan forward Shinji Kagawa and that skipper Nemanja Vidic is unwilling to risk another setback after spending virtually 12 months on the sidelines with major knee problems.

Yet Ferguson does not view the absences as a handicap, more of a predictable inconvenience ahead of a big game.

"I know we have some injury problems but we are not short of a squad," Ferguson told MUTV.

"I have plenty of experience to bring in. I rested Darren Fletcher against Cluj on Wednesday and just brought him on for the last 10 minutes.

"Michael Carrick will be back in. I also have Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez.

"That is what big squads allow you to do.

"You don't have every player every week. Our supporters must recognise that."

For the Red Devils, victory is important, not only to open up a six-point lead on the most obvious threat to their Premier League title hopes, but to end a cycle of depressing results against their neighbours.

"The fact City have emerged over the last couple of years, and won the league last season, you know they are going to be our main competitors, so a positive result there would be a big boost," said Ferguson.

And it does seem, that whilst Roberto Mancini is a very different character to Ferguson, he has managed to inject City with the same streak that has made United so hard to beat down the years.

"They are playing similarly to last year," said Ferguson.

"Early season last year they did very well. But as the season progressed they were in the same place they are now.

"They are still scoring late goals, which is a strong trait if you are going to win a championship.

"It shows you that they are not going to give in.

"They are dangerous in the last few minutes of matches, especially Edin Dzeko, when they bring him on, so they have certain traits that are easily identifiable."