global audience of 650 million fans in 212 countries is expected
to watch what is being billed as the most significant game ever
played in English club football on Monday when Manchester City
host Manchester United in Premier League.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said it is the title decider
and the most important derby he has faced in his 26 years at the
club given his side are three points clear of their rivals at
the top with three games left.
His rival Roberto Mancini reckoned former United striker and
rehabilitated City returnee Carlos Tevez is "destined to score
the most memorable goal in the history of this club".
It is all set for quite a showdown. Hours before kick-off there was a real air of excited
anticipation in the streets of the city centre.
Souvenir sellers were already in place selling
"half-and-half" scarves, prominently displaying "Manchester City
v Manchester United, April 30 2012" woven into their fabric
while huge City and United flags fluttered above their stalls.
A local ticket agency advertising two tickets for the match
said they were some still available at 1,500 pounds
each "with an unobstructed view of the pitch" while bookmakers
Ladbrokes said they were expecting to take more than 100 million
pounds in bets, the biggest figure on a single match in England.
There was a steady stream of fans heading early to the east
of the City where City's stadium is situated.
There were countless fans of all shapes and sizes wearing
City's light blue colours and United's red in amongst the
shoppers along the central street of Deansgate, where Mancini
and assistant Brian Kidd were seen taking a lunchtime stroll.
The Manchester Evening News declared simply "Day of Destiny"
on its front page and "Legends or Losers" on its back.
A win for United will almost certainly see them clinch the
title for a record-extending 20th time, while victory for City
would put them on course to win the League for the first time
since 1968 and prove they really are now United's equals.
Backed by the vast fortunes of Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi,
they have come a long way since the dark days when they dropped
into the third tier just over a decade ago.
City have invested an estimated billion pounds plus in
trying to catch United, but if they lose on Monday, another huge
investment looks likely over the close-season.
The hosts have been in excellent form since Tevez made his
peace with the club after falling out with Mancini after
refusing to warm up as a substitute in a Champions League match
at Bayern Munich in September.
Since returning to the starting line-up, the Argentina
striker has scored four times in three matches.
United have stumbled of late with a loss against Wigan
Athletic and last week's 4-4 home draw with Everton meaning City
have the momentum going into the 146th league clash between the
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