It is quite simply the biggest Premier League game of all time.
The Manchester derby later today will almost certainly dictate where the Premier League trophy will end up at the end of one of the most unpredictable campaigns in recent memory. It seems a long time ago now that Spurs and Chelsea acted as two pretenders to a title challenge, but in truth, the challenge has only ever been sustained from the two halves of Manchester.
Both United and City have been written-off at different times this season, and both times the doubters have had to swallow their words following events at the next weekend. That is the kind of season this has been - a constant, relentless drive towards the glory of being crowned champions of England, with the added incentive of getting a massive one over your next-door neighbours, till next season anyway.
The two teams' path to this stage of the season could not have been more different: United's run has been characterised by experience, grittiness, passion, occasional quality and the winning mentality of champions. City's on the other hand has been one of overpowering opponents through star quality, a scary record at home and a lot of controversy to boot. Just when the title seemed to be spinning out of reach for one, the return of a messiah-like figure has stabilised and reinvigorated all concerned. But while Paul Scholes's return from retirement has been unanimously applauded by fans and the media, Carlos Tevez's, however successful now, has smacked of desperation, especially after Mancini's vow to never play him again. Perhaps that best highlights the stark difference in the philosophy of the two clubs.
There are so many mini battles that will take place on the pitch - but most people would agree that the outcome of the game depends on winning the battle in midfield. Whatever midfield combination is chosen by Sir Alex, the players will need to put in the performance of their lives.
Looking through the optimists' eye, City have previously faltered when there has been great expectation from them - results in the Champions League, against Sporting Lisbon and Arsenal spring to mind. The spotlight (no fewer than 600 million glued viewers across the world today) and the pressure will be on them tonight more strongly than ever before.
For two hours tonight, the world's eye will turn to Manchester in a clash of mind-blowing proportions. The two teams will take to the pitch like gladiators in combat, and one set of players has the chance to write itself into the respective fans' folklore. Crucially, United fans should take heart from the fact that everything from here on to the end of the season is entirely in the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson and his team.
And really, there is no one I would rather trust to the job more than them.
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