Former Manchester United defender Wes Brown believes that the Red Devils have a significant advantage ahead of this Sunday’s momentous derby by featuring two home-grown talents in Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.
“The local lads will understand what it’s about. They would have grew up into it and take more emotion into the game. The two lads who will be playing in the Manchester United side will understand and be trying their hardest. I always did. It really meant something and it went out to all your family and friends”.
Born and raised in Longsight, Manchester the five-time Premier League champion knows all-too-well what this local skirmish means to the city yet for many years the fixture took a back seat to United v Liverpool. With City now very much in the ascendency has that changed?
“For the league position then I would say it’s the bigger game now. Both teams have unbelievable players. For me when I looked at the fixtures I’d look for the Liverpool game first and then City but that’s how I was brought up. I reckon the younger lads coming up now will probably look for the Man City game. Maybe if I was playing now I’d do the same too.”
Having been firmly in their neighbour’s shadow for much of the Premier League era City now head to Old Trafford this weekend unbeaten, top of the league and as marginal favourites. To what extent does Brown believe that the power has shifted in recent times?
“Of course United are still the top dogs but I’m telling you now that City have started this season off unbelievably. The team is brilliant and I’ve got a lot of friends who are City fans and they’re so excited by Pep and how he wants his team to play. It’s a Barcelona style where everyone wants the ball and keeps the ball and keeps moving”.
“I think it’s fantastic for Manchester itself that both of its clubs are first and second. It makes it so interesting too that the sides are so different. City are proving themselves by going out and winning week in and week out in a positive way. United are winning every week too but it’s more defensive which is why the fans are getting frustrated. Jose though is just doing what he thinks is the right thing to get the points.”
Jose Mourinho’s cautious approach to several games this term has led to many assuming he will ‘park the bus’ on Sunday against a City side full of goals. Will such negativity be embraced by the red faithful however at home to their nearest rivals?
“It’s hard and I talk to my friends all the time about it. They would love to see us going all out and being a lot more attacking but at the same time it is what it is: we won trophies last season from being defensive and we’ve started this season well too getting results. Jose is in his second season now and he’s building a team and while that is happening sometimes you have to play defensive to win. Last week he shown that he can switch it and speaking as a fan myself you want to see that more but that’s not always the way to win a football game.”
Winning this most crucial of games has been made all the more difficult with the enforced absence of their star man Paul Pogba. Brown is effusive about the Frenchman’s qualities going as far as to compare him to a stonewall Premier League legend
“He reminds me of a Vieira type. He’s strong and has good quality on the ball. He gets forward and scores goals but can also defend. He’s probably not as aggressive as Vieira but in every other way he reminds me of him. He calms the team down when he plays and he’s a big-game player.”
“I don’t think City will change much but Jose might through losing Pogba. He is massive for the team and takes control of the midfield and he is definitely a big loss for the team.”
If missing Pogba is a blow for the red half of Manchester at least they still have the formidable figure of Nemanja Matic at the heart of proceedings. Brown it seems has been a big admirer from the start.
“Matic is brilliant and I thought he was a good signing from the off. He is naturally defensive minded as a midfielder which helps but I’m surprised at how quick he is to the ball and the pressure he puts on people. He reads the game so well and if a team-mate is in trouble he’ll slot back to help. He’s someone you need in every team.”
The towering Serb alone though surely won’t be enough to keep City’s multifaceted attack at bay. Thankfully for United they also have David De Gea in typically splendid form as shown in last week’s one-man show at the Emirates. An incredulous Brown insists the 27 year old can go on to become the finest stopper in the club’s history.
“He’s got a chance to become United’s greatest. He’s been brilliant for three or four seasons now and under different managers he’s got United a lot of points from making unbelievable saves. He just continues to do that and that Arsenal game just reminded everybody just how brilliant he is. To get on that stage alongside Schmeichel and Van Der Saar you have to do it regularly and he is.”
Now playing in the Indian Super League with Kerala Blasters after a highly distinguished top class career Brown will be watching on from afar this weekend, undoubtedly cheering on the club he represented for fifteen years.
“If United lose I wouldn’t say the title race is over but it does give City a great chance to push on. As we’ve seen so many times in the past the Christmas period is interesting in itself and anything can happen there. If United win then it would make that Christmas period even more exciting. I want United to win anyway but I also hope they win because it would make the league interesting.”
Wes Brown quickfire questions
Who will win the Premier League?
Who will win the Golden Boot?
Probably Kane again
Score-line prediction for the derby
2-1 to United
Who will win the Champions League?