Manchester City V Manchester United Premier League Preview: Will It Be A Blue Monday Or Simply Red? (GALLERY/VIDEO)

WATCH: Blue Monday Or Simply Red? City V United Preview

Not since 1968 have Manchester City and Manchester United vied for the English league title, and tonight's Premier League clash acts as a nadir in the Mancunian rivalry.

As Lee, Summerbee and Bell edged out the Reds to the Division One title, Best Law (admittedly injured) and Charlton won the European Cup at Wembley.

Manchester's 60s hegemony has now returned. Both clubs are holders of England's biggest domestic trophies and are unquestionably the best teams in the country. Arsenal, in third place, trail City by 14 points.

It is testament to Sir Alex Ferguson's managerial expertise that he is ahead of Roberto Mancini's Blues. Despite the financial gulf - United are laden with debt, City are flush with Dubai riches - the Scot has steered United to two titles since the Citizens were no longer just "typical City".

So where will the game be won tonight? We chart both clubs' likely starting XIs from back-to-front...


Joe Hart was last week chosen as number one for the Premier League Team of the Season. A questionable choice, but what is unquestionable is his superiority over United's David de Gea. The Spaniard has enjoyed fantastic form since his pivotal save from Juan Mata in February's 3-3 draw at Chelsea, but Hart has emerged as one of Europe's finest goalkeepers.

Prior to the opening game of last season it was 50-50 between Hart and Shay Given to start the campaign between the posts for City. Hart, rightly named in the 2009/10 Team of the Year whilst on loan at Birmingham, got the nod and excelled in a 0-0 draw at Tottenham. De Gea remains a raw and exciting prospect, but the Blues have the more assured stopper, and one who has made a fraction of the number of errors the 21-year-old Spain Under-21 international has this campaign.



United have conceded 32 goals to City's 27 in the league this season, and that has chiefly been down to the absence of injured captain Nemanja Vidic. In his six Premier League appearances, the Reds conceded just two goals and kept four clean sheets.

City 's Vincent Kompany is as crucial to them as Vidic is to United. The captain is one of the best centre-backs around and has formed an excellent partnership with the improving Joleon Lescott, whereas Ferguson struggled to settle on a central duo in Vidic's absence until two months after he suffered his cruciate knee ligament injury against Basel in December. Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand have fared well, but don't offer the solidity Kompany and Lescott do.

At full-back, Micah Richards has enjoyed a fruitful campaign despite tailing off since January, while Gael Clichy is benefitting from a new lease of life after going stagnant at Arsenal. His compatriot, Patrice Evra, however has toiled for a second successive campaign although Rafael da Silva has progressed well, honing his defensive skills.



United made an offer for David Silva after the 2008 European Championship which was rejected by Valencia. Two years later, with City now boasting the financial muscle, it was they who brought the Spaniard to Manchester as the Glazer ownership began to bite on the red side.

Complement the World Cup-winner with the marauding Yaya Toure against United's best midfield duo (Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick) and there is no contest as to which is superior. Ferguson's midfield has not been appropriately addressed since before Roy Keane's final days, and it is the area United are most vulnerable in, which almost certainly certifies an extra midfielder being deployed tonight.

Nigel de Jong or Gareth Barry will be the Citizens' extra security policy, so while United busy themselves repelling City in the centre, it is on the wings where they can harm their hosts. Either Antonio Valencia and Nani would arguably make Mancini's starting XI, and the onus on them to supply an isolated Wayne Rooney is greater than ever this evening.



Rooney, it is largely acknowledged, wanted to join City in October 2010 when he handed in a transfer request before doing a U-turn less than a week later at Old Trafford. The Guardian's Daniel Taylor, who worked on the Manchester beat for over a decade, wrote on Sunday: "they [City] still like to believe, Wayne Rooney might be tempted across Manchester... 'Strengthen yourself, weaken your rivals,' as one senior City figure explained at the time".

Vidic and Rooney are two players who would certainly walk into City's side. The Croxteth striker could start as a lone forward tonight. Not ideal, given his forte is in the number 10 role, but essential considering the Red Devils' midfield paucity. His 31 goals this term have come despite some underwhelming performances, yet he has scored three against Chelsea and Arsenal, and two against Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton. He is one of the club's best ever "big game" players.

But across the city they have an embarrassment of riches. Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko may conduct themselves questionably, but throw them in with Sergio Aguero and City's attack is formidable. Three could feasibly leave this summer, but whereas Rooney is supported by Danny Welbeck and his questionable end product, Javier Hernandez and his abject first touch and the Invisible Man (Dimitar Berbatov), Mancini would prefer his quartet. Despite the baggage.

United and City through-the-years gallery:



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