Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool's fans will go from Anyone But United to Anyone But City tonight

By Steven Beacom

David Moyes and Manchester United will have many more fans than usual tonight.

It won't just be the millions of United followers around the world cheering the Red Devils on against Manchester City at Old Trafford. Liverpool and Chelsea supporters will be roaring Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and David De Gea to victory too.

Imagine that... Kopites praying for a United success. It's been that sort of crazy season.

From forever being ABU's (Anything But United) they'll turn into ABC's (Anything But City) this evening with the outcome of what is an intriguing derby sure to have a major impact on the compelling title race.

If City win they'll have jumped over a major hurdle in their quest for Premier League glory and will move just THREE points behind leaders Chelsea with TWO games in hand, supplemented by a vastly superior goal difference.

The Blue Moon rising tonight would mean Manuel Pellegrini's side could afford one slip up in the remaining matches and still be crowned champions.

They could do with that breathing space because given their testing run-in, which after the Manchester derby features trips to Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton, it's unlikely City will win every game. On the other hand should Yaya Toure and co only draw or lose at Old Trafford, it would be a huge boost to Chelsea's ambitions, with the 'little horse' having easier fixtures to come and in prime position to gallop home in front.

Jose Mourinho will never say that of course. Let's face it, even if Chelsea are four points clear with one game to go, he'll be claiming the London outfit can't win the title, but Mourinho knows all too well if United overcome City, it'll be an even bigger result for him than Moyes.

It would also delight Brendan Rodgers because then the destiny of the championship would be in Liverpool's hands with the Anfield outfit entertaining both sets of Blues next month.

The thing is can United do it?

Well, they are in a much stronger position than a week ago when they were coming to terms with being humiliated by Liverpool on their own patch.

Since then they've beaten Olympiakos 3-0 to stay in the Champions League and won 2-0 at West Ham thanks to Rooney.

Funny enough, the last time United defeated City at home in the Premier League in 2011 came courtesy of a sensational overhead kick that Rooney considers superior to the Upton Park classic.

The England striker will be a key figure and with Robin van Persie out injured, Mata should be influential too, playing in his preferred central role.

When the former Chelsea player is not out wide United have a better balance in the side and can operate with more pace on the flanks. City skipper Vincent Kompany is often a giant in these derby encounters and returning from suspension will need another big performance tonight to give his attacking team-mates a platform to go and secure a crucial success.

With Sergio Aguero still out injured, City's chief threat will stem from the magnificent Toure. If he takes control of the game, as he so often does, City fans will be celebrating a third league victory in a row at the Theatre of Dreams, believing it is their year once again. If not, United, Chelsea and Liverpool supporters will have much to celebrate.

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