Manchester derby

Will Tevez score again against his former team and come out on top tomorrow?

Manchester divided

Tevez factor giving added intrigue to derby day showdown

Two former players from each side of the Manchester divide championed their sides’ chances in the derby this weekend to Sky Sports News.

Gary Owen, who played for Manchester City from 1975-79, and Lou Macari who represented Manchester United from 1973-84 both put forward their opinions ahead of the crunch encounter on Saturday.

With Wayne Rooney a doubt and United in indifferent form, many on the blue side of Manchester are feeling more optimistic than ever of a win.

However, Owen himself aired slightly more on the side of caution in his prediction, suggesting that this season may have come a little early for City to announce their superiority over their neighbours.

“My heart says that City will win and Carlos Tevez will score the winning goal, but my head says that it looks like a draw because both teams have got a lot to play for,” Owen told Sky Sports News.

“I think the meetings we’ve had this season show you how close it is, but United have been the more consistent because the points tell you that – the league never lies.

“Whoever put these fixtures out couldn’t have planned it better.”

Worst seven days

Macari on the other hand was keen not to underplay the importance of the game to Manchester United’s chances of Premier League glory, never mind local rivalry.

United already trail in the title race by four points, having lost to leaders Chelsea and dropped points against Blackburn.

Add to that an exit from the Champions League and Macari believes the Manchester derby has taken on more significance than ever.

“United have to win – a draw really is no good to us. It’s probably the most important Manchester derby for a long, long time,” Macari continued.

“They’ve got to pick up their form. Against Chelsea in the first half they were awful and in the Champions League I thought that they played brilliantly but got the wrong result.

“Against Blackburn again it was another poor performance, so I’d probably say it’s the worst seven days in the manager’s time at the club.”

That Macari regards United’s recent travails as the worst in a Sir Alex Ferguson’s 24 year spell says much about the weight of recent history upon the club.

Yet, for Owen and Manchester City, the past can serve to represent something of a clean slate to work off.

Even the last-gasp 4-3 defeat to United earlier in the season is insignificant to Owen, as he believes that the club can place full trust in what is to come.

“Well, the past is past and the future is there to play for,” added Owen.

“At Old Trafford the game swung from one end to the other and a last second goal stopped us from getting a point there.

“We’re confident. Our home form has been fantastic over the last season. Apart from the Everton game it has almost been impeccable.”

Danger man

One of the factors that has added an extra dimension to the derby this year has been the form of City’s Carlos Tevez.

After United let the striker leave following his loan contract expiry last season, Tevez has been in outstanding form and Owen feels that United will be kicking themselves for missing out on the Argentine.

“Listen, Sir Alex won’t come out and say it but the reason they didn’t sign Tevez is because they didn’t have the money and were dependant on the Ronaldo transfer,” he speculated.

“Once the Ronaldo transfer was sorted, he could then go for him. Unlucky for him – but lucky for us – it was too late.”

Indeed, Macari agrees that Tevez deserves nothing but respect for his form this season, adding, “The manager decided to let him go and no-one can hide from the fact that he has done exceptionally well for Manchester City.

“I’m sure all the United players who know Carlos Tevez will pay him a great deal of respect and will realise that he will be a massive danger man.

“When you look at the form you have to say at this moment in time City look favourites to win the game. But when the situation is like that, time and time again I’ve seen the Manchester United lads rise to the occasion and get the result.”

Regardless of the final score though, the belief which is currently heartening the fans around Eastlands and unsettling even the most steadfast Red, is that City may have already achieved parity with their cross-city rivals.

“There’s no gap in between the teams in my opinion,” Owen concluded. “I think we are equally as good as Man United player for player.”

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