D-day in premier league battle
IT'S the Battle of Manchester on Monday as United and City clash in an English Premier League match that will probably decide the outcome of the championship.
City, who had looked out of the race, are back in it following United's sharing of eight goals with Everton on Sunday.
Also a brave decision by City manager Roberto Mancini to bring back Carlos Tevez has sparked new life into the team, especially with the Argentine linking up with compatriot Sergio Aguero.
Tevez, it was decided by the City manager, is less trouble than Mario Balotelli, whose errant behaviour led to the Argentine's return.
Since Tevez's return, City have scored 12 goals and accumulated nine points from three games. No wonder Balotelli is almost a forgotten man at the club.
Balotelli's petulance and his fouling became just too much for Mancini, who had been unbelievably tolerant of the enigmatic young Italian until then. The three-match ban for Balotelli by the England Football Association has expired, but it is still uncertain whether Mancini will indulge him.
It is not only up front where City have made massive improvements; they have become solid at the back with the return of Vincent Kompany. If Kompany can marshal the City defence, Tevez and Aguero can combine up front to take advantage of a sluggish United defence.
There have been suggestions that United manager Alex Ferguson will contemplate two wingers and two strikers in Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck. But this could open United up to attack in the middle, especially if Rooney is slow to drop back and defend.
On the other hand, Ferguson might go only with Rooney, bringing in Ryan Giggs to support Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick in the midfield. Giggs and Scholes know all about pressure and in a situation like Monday's game, it might be better for United to employ canny old hands than any bright young talents.
Some pundits have suggested that Ferguson should remove Rafael from right-back and bring in Chris Smalling instead. Smalling is the type of player who could inspire confidence in Patrice Evra, who has been lacking it of late.
That leaves the mind games, at which Ferguson is a past master. But Mancini has been up with his lately, publicly doubting that United could slip up against Wigan, against whom United lost, and Everton, with whom they drew.