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Rio Ferdinand to Miss Manchester Dby

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Rio Ferdinand (left), Manchester Uniteds superstar, competes with Manchester Citys captain Carlos Tevez when the teams last met in November. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Rio Ferdinand to Miss Manchester Derby

Rio Ferdinand (left), Manchester Uniteds superstar, competes with Manchester Citys captain Carlos Tevez when the teams last met in November. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Key Manchester United central defender Rio Ferdinand is expected to miss Saturdays Manchester derby as a result of the calf strain he sustained during the warm-up prior to last weekends shock defeat at Wolverhampton. Also missing will be another former United skipper Gary Neville who announced his retirement from football last week.

Many will remember a typically tenacious display from Neville being a factor in United managing to hold Manchester City at bay in last years Eastlands fixture, before stealing the 3 points, thanks to Paul Scholess last gasp header in stoppage time. Derby games were the type of fixtures on which Neville thrived and one wonders if Rafael, his young Brazilian successor in the right-back position, will have the same passionate desire to put one over on the cross-town rivals.

One of Citys players who will certainly have that desire in spades will be Carlos Tevez, who likes nothing better than to score against the club that he considers spurned him back in 2009. City boss Roberto Mancini said on a Manchester City website video: They [United] know that now we are a strong team.

With City third in the Premier League table and still very much in contention for the title, few would dispute that claim. However, Mancini will not be quite so spoilt for choice when he comes to make his team selection this time around. Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson will still be unavailable through injury, while Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy, Roque Santa Cruz are all out on loan. With Ferdinand absent, the height and strength of Adebayor could have been a real asset and nobody can forget Bellamys starring role, albeit on the losing side, in the equivalent fixture last year.


The first derby of this campaign played at the City of Manchester Stadium back in November was a disappointing 00 draw and in complete contrast to the four pulsating league and Carling Cup matches between the two sides last season. Both sets of fans as well as the neutrals will be hoping for better when the teams walk out onto the Old Trafford turf this coming Saturday Feb 12.

United midfielder Darren Fletcher told MUTV: All of the lads will be up for it and its one of those games that provide the perfect opportunity to bounce back [from the defeat by Wolves].

Meanwhile, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson expressed his annoyance on that international friendlies have been scheduled in midweek prior to such an important top of the table clash on the Saturday lunchtime. He said: Its a massive game that weve got to look forward to. Unfortunately we have got international matches in midweek which in my view is crazy, but we have to get on with it.

Saturdays game will be the 158th competitive Manchester derby, the 144th in the league. The first derby was played on Nov 12, 1881 when United were Newton Heath and City were West Gorton. Newton won the game 30. The first league game was played in the 1894/1895 Season and Newton Heath beat Manchester City 52.

In all the years of Manchester derby games, some of the most fiercely contested were in the late 60s when both clubs were directly competing for silverware. One of Citys finest ever players from that period, Neil Young, died aged 66 last week after a long battle with cancer.

Paying tribute on the City website former team-mate Mike Summerbee said: Everybody refers to those days as the Bell, Lee and Summerbee era, but it really should be the Lee, Bell, Young and Summerbee era because he was a great player who scored countless vital goals for us. He was like a ballet dancer, in fact, he was so graceful on a football pitch. Francis Lee added: Hell always be remembered for what a sublime player he was with an exceptional left foot.

That left foot won the 1969 FA Cup for his team with a stunning strike from just inside the penalty box, but it was only one of many memorable goals he scored for Manchester City.

This writer remembers watching televised highlights of one of Citys games during a particularly severe winter sometime in the 60s. The match probably should have been postponed, but it went ahead on a dangerously frozen pitch with most of the players sliding and falling about all over the place. Yet Neil Young glided around just as normal, as if it was Wembley stadium in May. He was absolutely magnificent.

During the 1969-70 season I was attending Sheffield University and in the crowd at Hillsborough when City came to play Sheffield Wednesday FC. City won the game and Neil Young was the best player on the park by a mile. Earlier that season, Wednesday had played a friendly against Brazils renowned Santos club featuring none other than Pele himself. No disrespect to the great man, but comparing the two performances, the man from Manchester was the more impressive.

Perhaps I should mention, for the record, that I have never at any time in my life been a supporter of Manchester City; but to me Neil Young was one of those rare individuals whose gracious personality and talent transcended club loyaltiessomeone who all lovers of the game could admire and respect.

Sadly, he never won an England cap, but that was simply due to the wealth of talent around during the period in which he played. For instance, there was this bloke called Bobby Charlton who didnt have a bad left foot either not to mention a lethal right foot as well. Had Young played in any other era he would surely have represented his country on many occasions. Nonetheless, he will leave those of us who were privileged to have seen him grace a football pitch with enduring memories.

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