Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United in mood to get even

David Moyes will use Manuel Pellegrini jibe to spur his team against Manchester City

By Ian Herbert

David Moyes has responded to Manuel Pellegrini's declaration that Manchester City are the top club in their city, warning ahead of tonight's derby that the Chilean risks hubris and that Manchester United's own time will come again.

United head into the match 12 points adrift of their Manchester rivals – a level of superiority City have not enjoyed over United on a derby day for 37 years – and City midfielder Fernandinho stoked the fires by declaring that he was surprised how easy to beat a poor Manchester United had been earlier this season.

But Moyes offered the kind of retort to Pellegrini's observation that United fans will be looking for, after consecutive wins which offer fragile signs of hope. "Well, Manchester United had lots and lots of seasons of domination," Moyes said when questioned about comments Pellegrini first made last month and which he elaborated on yesterday.

"I don't think if I was a manager I would have turned round and necessarily said that we were the only club in Manchester because football does change," Moyes said. "It goes in cycles."

United were 4-0 behind in 50 minutes at the Etihad Stadium back in September, leading Fernandinho to reflect now that they were unexpectedly poor.

"Of course I was surprised," he said. "It's a club with a lot of history; with very good players. They were the champions – so yes I was surprised at how badly they played that day and how easily we won."

His claim that City are fighting for the title now, whilst United are simply fighting to restore some pride tonight was a statement of fact.

"They are maybe just fighting for honour now," he said.

It is in the midfield area that the gulfs between the squad strengths have most graphically revealed themselves this season – with United's midfielders chipping in just two goals compared to the 33 delivered by Samir Nasri, David Silva, Yaya Youre, Fernandinho, Jesus Navas in the Premier League.

Pellegrini stated that the midfield was a key point of comparison between the two sides.

"Maybe they are stronger and we are more technical," he said, though Fernandinho also expressed surprise that that area of the field had not delivered more goals for United.

"It does surprise me because they have good midfielders," he said. "But we can't go thinking that their midfielders won't score against us. We need to be careful. It will be better if we go there and score at least two goals - we will be looking to attack them and play our normal game against them."

City would make the trip across Manchester "expecting to win," Fernandinho added.

Moyes said he had been forced to deal with Chris Smalling, who was pictured dancing a jig outside a nightclub at 3.15am on Saturday morning, having been ruled out of the trip to West Ham that day, with a hamstring injury.

"I've dealt with it and I've spoken to Chris. That would be as much as I would want to say on it," said Moyes, refusing to disclose how long Smalling – who will miss tonight's game – will be out of contention for United.

Despite Nemanja Vidic's suspension tonight, Moyes has Rio Ferdinand fit to play alongside Phil Jones.

His other option in central defence, Jonny Evans, has been struggling with a calf injury and has not played since the defeat at Stoke seven weeks ago.

Moyes said he would deploy midfielders Michael Carrick or Marouane Fellaini at centre-half if he had to.

Pellegrini, who has only Aguero and Nastasic missing, said he again wanted to inflict on United what City had delivered against them at the Etihad in September.

"We will try to play in the same way. We are the same team and we'll try," he said, though his side have had to rely less heavily on Alvaro Negredo, who has scored less freely.

"For different things you always have different moments in a season. I trust in Alvaro and I'm sure he will return to his normal performances."

Tonight's game brings its own immense pressures for Pellegrini. His side exited two tournaments in three days earlier this month, and now have a 19-day Premier League period, facing United, Arsenal on Saturday and Liverpool at Anfield two weeks on Sunday.

Toure has said City need to take 33 points from 11 games to take the title.

"If you say we lose the game tomorrow and win the title, I prefer to win the title but we can do both things," Pellegrini said. "When you have two important teams in the same city you always want to be the best team. We are not just fighting against Manchester United. In some ways it doesn't matter."

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