You often hear men say… it’s not about how big it is, it’s how you use it.
We know what that usually refers to, but in this case you can easily apply that approach to this weekends derby fixture.
This early in the season, we cannot secure anything tangible by beating City as handsomely as we did last season, but what we can do is show them that the Arsenal result and performance was the blip in our season, not the 1 week where we topped the Premier League for the first time in far, far, far too long.
The Derby is a huge fixture now. Back when they were just an Oasis tribute band I couldn’t have cared less. But since the billionaire launched them on the road to domestic domination, it’s suddenly become a bigger game than the ones that used to rank above it.
Victory over them in years gone by was just cracking fanzine fodder. Good stuff to make fine cartoons from, but City’s evolution into a footballing force, one that you have to beat if you’re to achieve anything domestically has changed all that.
I want to see us go after City as we did last season at Old Trafford. they started brightly, they took a deserved lead and I feared the worst. What came after that was outstanding, we pressed them to death all over the pitch, and when we had the ball, we created pressure, pressure on the pitch that created an atmosphere in the ground, an atmosphere that kept the players bombing on and we destroyed them. It was beautiful to watch.
What we can’t afford is for that level of performance against a major contender to be a one off. I’m hopeful it won’t be. Although we’re not regularly entertaining under Van Gaal, we rarely forget our lines on the big occasions, when you look at last season under the Dutchman, it was often the performances against the mid table plodders that cost us significant points. Swansea & Newcastle aside we look to have made progress this season in addressing that issue.
If we can see something like the perfomance at Everton this Sunday instead of the functional shite that we endured in Moscow, then it could be a huge marker laid down. Since Sir Alex retired the fear factor that sides had with regards to coming to Old Trafford has gone with him, it will only return through consistently bossing games like this. This’s why I repeat again, it’s not just about how big the game is, but how well we use it go get what we need to achieve done.
If we can do what short rounds have been doing for years, and use something as small as 1 game in a 38 game season to deliver a result and performance that gives us a glimmer of title challenge hope to cling to, then I’ll be a happy, happy fatman come Monday morning.