x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

A city united in its bitter rivalry ahead of the Manchester derby

Countdown to the derby: 'Intense, bordering on hatred', Andy Mitten speaks to fans from both half of the Manchester divide. Audio preview

Manchester City fans, left, and United supporters, right, agree the rivalry has changed for the better with City's emergence as title contenders. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images; Dave Thompson / PA
Manchester City fans, left, and United supporters, right, agree the rivalry has changed for the better with City's emergence as title contenders. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images; Dave Thompson / PA

‘Intense, bordering on hatred’ and ‘even more fierce since the takeover’. Supporters from the blue and red halves talk of Manchester about what tomorrow’s derby means to them

In the blue corner

Chris Beswick, 43, Radcliffe

A season-ticket holder who sits five seats away from Roberto Mancini.

Describe the United v City rivalry?

The rivalry has always been intense, bordering on hatred, between Mancunians. City fans are enjoying it more because United fans are seeing us more as a threat to their crown. I have even interviewed people for jobs and asked them who they support. If they said United I've not taken them on. That's sad, but I had to get my own back somehow.

What does tomorrow's derby mean to you?

Everything. We had our noses rubbed in it a few weeks ago and were told that United had won the league. To be given a second chance after recent results is great. I hate watching the derby games and can only relax after the final whistle. How I feel depends on the result.

How will you feel and what will you do if United avoid defeat?

I'll be gutted for a week or two, but then I'll reflect where we are and where we've been over the last few years. I've seen City relegated and hammered 8-1 at Middlesbrough when United have won the league. To be in with a chance of the league with three games to go and qualify for the Uefa Champions League with eight games to go means my glass is half full.

And what about if City win?

I'll go up to Newcastle United for the biggest game in my lifetime of 43 years and 72 English away grounds watching City. At work, I've got a supplier who is a United fan. I'm supposed to pay him £6,000 (Dh35,700) next Tuesday. If we win, I will take it personally on Tuesday morning. If we lose I will not answer the phone and delay payment by two weeks.

Has the rivalry changed for better or worse in recent seasons?

For the better. It's great for Manchester to be talked about around the world, nice that people in Milan, Madrid and Brazil will watch the game. I feel blessed to have been born in Manchester and have these emotions for my club, which a lot of new fans won't understand or relate to.

If you had to give the United credit for anything, what would it be?

United's away support. They go everywhere in big numbers. And while I don't like him, it's remarkable what [the manager Sir Alex] Ferguson has achieved. That's enough credit from me!

Andy Tasker, 28, Manchester

A season ticket holder in the Colin Bell Stand.

Describe the United v City rivalry?

Fierce - more so after the takeover. We posed no threat to United when they were winning everything. That has changed and so has the atmosphere. It is hostile and that can take the focus away from the game.

What does Monday's derby mean to you?

It's the biggest game in my lifetime, more important than the 1999 play-off final, last season's FA Cup semi-final and final. It would end years of abuse from arrogant United fans that also used to mock us for being the poor relation. Remember what Fergie said: 'Never in my lifetime'. Maybe, just maybe, that could come back to haunt him. It would be wonderful.

How will you feel and what will you do if United avoid defeat?

We've had a second chance and to blow that will be disappointing as the title is in our sights. If we draw or lose then I would be very upset, but give credit to United. We were so far ahead at one point and looked like we would wrap it up by February, but United pulled it back and it looked like we had blown it. We haven't.

Mark Bent, 38, Davyhulme, a season-ticket holder in the East Stand

What about if City win?

I'll be buzzing like every blue. I've watched my team home and away for years - I once went eight years without missing a single match. I never expected City to be close to winning the league when I watched my team at places like Gillingham and Grimsby.

Has the rivalry changed for better or worse in recent seasons?

We're a threat to United, which we never were, so it has become a much bigger game and that has to be a good thing. I'll be very tense before the match on Monday but I've got faith in City. We've got the best team I've ever seen while supporting the club.

If you had to give the other team credit for anything, what would it be?

United never give up. If they're 3-1 down away from home with 10 minutes to go, you always think they'll get at least a point. They fight to the end and that's a good hallmark for potential champions, something that City would do well to learn from.

In the red corner

Steve Armstrong, 40, Moston, a Stretford End season ticket holder

Describe the United v City rivalry?

It's the most intense in British football. Even during the years of City's decline the rivalry remained. Neither club likes nor respects the other. The fans do not like nor respect the other and it has ruined and broken families including my own.

What does tomorrow's derby mean to you?

City away has always been the main game of the season. Monday now has something other than local bragging at stake and that makes it the biggest game between the two clubs in my lifetime. Football needs a United victory to prove that youth, experience and brilliant management can overcome whatever riches have been bestowed on City.

How will you feel and what will you do if United avoid defeat?

I'll go to work on Tuesday. I'll feel ecstasy, relief, emotional. Probably all of those things. It will be nice to have my wife talk to me again and to be able to sleep at night without worrying or without the need for the medication that one of my mates has to take to help him relieve the stress.

And what about if City win?

I'll not be going to work on Tuesday. I resigned myself to a City title before Christmas. To have clawed our way back, technically won it and be close to losing it again has made my blood pressure as high as it has ever been. I'll not handle defeat at all well.

Has the rivalry changed for better or worse in recent seasons?

Ferguson didn't even bother turning up for one derby game. I didn't agree with that. City weren't any threat then but it was still our biggest game. Now they are the main rival on the pitch, which has given a great edge to things off the pitch. It's now what a local rivalry should be like.

Rob Woods, 31, Manchester, a season ticket holder in the north east quadrant

Describe the United v City rivalry?

It's evolving year on year, especially since the Abu Dhabi investment. When I was at school it was a very one-side affair. City were in the old division three, so we reserved our ire for the likes of Leeds United and the real enemy Liverpool. The money puts their team on more of a level playing field.

What does Monday's derby mean to you?

Not as much as it means to City fans. Nothing will be settled on the night. I feel United have been punching above their weight this season and to be in this position is a bonus in what I consider to be a transitional season at Old Trafford.

And what about if City win?

We'll stay out [for the night] regardless of the result. After the 6-1, we stayed out in the suburbs of south Manchester defiantly singing [Eric] Cantona songs. The local city fans looked shell-shocked with the result. They couldn't believe what they had seen.

Jamie Reeman, 38, Stockport, a lifelong fan.

Describe the United v City rivalry?

A rivalry based on jealousy. City fans have traditionally been jealous of United's global fame and success whereas United fans, especially the local ones, have been jealous of City sticking to their roots and retaining many of the principles of being a "football club". That has all changed recently and many of us are still coming to terms with it.

What does Monday's derby mean to you?

It means a lot but I'm not kidding myself. If we win or draw and go on to win the league it will be a brief respite. City are going to win the league very soon, and probably several times. I've come to terms with that but it would still be sweet to halt the charge, albeit briefly.

How will you feel and what will you do if United avoid defeat?

I'll be ecstatic but I will save my celebrations for Sunderland on the last day. I've learnt many times never to celebrate too early. But I would definitely sit back and raise a toast to Sir Alex Ferguson.

And what about if City win?

I'll take it on the chin, hope against hope that we can still snatch the league somehow, but will be quick to remind any gloating City fans that only a few weeks ago they were crying on TV and calling for the manager's head.

Has the rivalry changed for better or worse in recent seasons?

It has always been bitter and that has not changed because of City's success. Maybe outsiders are more aware of it now, and some United fans have been reminded that City are the real enemy - this can only be a good thing.

If you had to give the other team credit for anything, what would it be?

I come from a town [Stockport which is eight miles from Manchester] where 70 per cent of the locals support City, and I know many who have stuck by them for many years, through thick and thin. They love their club and I respect them for that. I just hope success doesn't spoil them.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE