Rivals ready for biggest derby

The tussles between the red and blue halves of Manchester have always contained the raw passion and drama that any local clash does.

But given the divergence of fortunes between the two clubs in the past 20 years – City have dropped to as low as League Two while United have conquered Europe –  some of the intensity has been taken away as all too often the Red Devils have ruled the roost over their near neighbours.

Instead, clashes with other members of the Big Four – Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea – have taken precedence for United as more than just bragging rights have been at stake.

But since the Abu Dhabi revolution at City, which has seen a huge injection of cash into the club, the “noisy neighbours”, as Sir Alex Ferguson called them, have been making a racket outside the Old Trafford gates.

Added to the drama has been the much publicised money troubles at United, with the controversial ownership of the Glazers piling more than £700 million pounds worth of debt on to what was once the world’s richest club.

A bond issue has given the club breathing space, but concerns about their ability to meet their long-term obligations on the debt has caused such anxiety amongst the fans that anti-Glazer chants swirled around Old Trafford during their last home game against a Hull.

Sprinkle in a former player in Carlos Tevez and his inflammatory celebration during his match-winning first leg performance and it’s clear their next meeting is shaping up to be one of the most toxic and frenzied Manchester derbies in a generation.

City see this game as a potential shift in the Manchester sands. After years in United’s large and looming shadow they believe a win in the Carling Cup semi-final will signal their emergence as a force in the English game.

Sir Alex Ferguson is aware of it too. Although he usually plays a young side in the competition, a full strength side was put out at Eastlands. Expect the same in the return leg.

The added passion, if channelled correctly, should result in a classic encounter for fans and neutrals alike. And even if City fail to overcome the old enemy on this occasion, with more millions promised by the club’s owners, you wonder how long United will be able to hold them off.

Currently, the Carling Cup odds make Manchester United the favourites to progress to the final.

The football odds also suggest that City will be breathing down United’s neck in the league as they are currently set for a top four finish.

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