Bluesy's Programme Notes For United
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This afternoon's Barclays Premier League fixture certainly needs no introduction from me, and it is the kind of game that every manager relishes.
Following on swiftly from last week's impressive 3-0 victory over Arsenal, today gives us the chance to pit ourselves against another of the top clubs in both the UK and Europe.
I'm really looking forward to the game; I have always enjoyed going up against Sir Alex Ferguson and have had some decent results against him, so I am keen for that to continue today. It's always a challenge when you face Manchester United, so we know we'll have to try and match their quality, but of course we have a good record against them of late. Our performance against Arsenal shows that we can cause problems for the very best teams and we'll need to be at the top of our game today to get the same result.
Such is the nature of the league at the moment, with it being so tight, a couple of positive results can see you move quickly up the table and we are hopeful that our victory last weekend will give us a welcome boost as we approach a notoriously demanding point of the season.
It was only the second time we have been able to beat Arsenal in the Barclays Premier League, so it certainly was a significant victory for us, and one I felt we were thoroughly good value for.
We had a game plan and wanted to break up the rhythm of their play because everyone knows how Arsene Wenger`s side can move the ball and hit you with pace and power in the attacking third of the pitch.
We did not want them to dictate how the game was going to shape up and the players stuck to their tasks and caused them problems as well.
Again there were three different scorers on Saturday, so far this season we've had 16 players get in the score sheet and that is already more than the previous campaign.
Our strikers haven't scored that many goals, in fairness. Most of them have come from the wider areas and midfield, with many coming from Robinho and Stevie Ireland. After joking that we have had to score two, possibly three to get our noses in front at times it was very pleasing to have kept a clean sheet against such an attacking force like Arsenal.
I was also delighted with the response from the stands and I know we will be well backed again today by a full house here. I more aware than most of what this fixture means to the fans, as I can tell you from personal experience, having being on the receiving end a few times during my career!
The crowds both at the City of Manchester Stadium and those who follow us on the road have been absolutely magnificent this year and I hope you are enjoying what you are seeing with us. I want to take this chance to thank those City supporters who travelled to Gelsenkirchen for our win over Schalke on Thursday, as at times our 3,000 or so fans were out-singing over 50,000 Schalke fans. I was delighted with our performance and the result in Germany, it was a great fillip going into today's game. The draw between Paris St Germain & Real Racing Club means we are through to the next round, which is a great achievement for a squad like ours which did not have extensive European experience at the start of the season. Now I want us to win the group, so I hope we can put on another winning display at home to PSG this Wednesday.
I'm anticipating a fantastic atmosphere once again today, and that helps the players because they sense when you are behind them and it drives them on to even better performances; particularly when local pride is at stake.
I've been involved in many big derbies during my career, the Manchester one, Liverpool and Everton games as well as Barcelona against Real Madrid, and they are all fantastic occasions. As a player and as a manager you have to try and enjoy them if you can...but you can only do that by winning.
Enjoy the game!