An old rivalry rekindled

The season is slowly drawing to a close, and hopefully, by the time you read this our safety will virtually have been secured after the away game at Southampton.

The season is slowly drawing to a close, and hopefully, by the time you read this our safety will virtually have been secured after the away game at Southampton.

But even if we aren’t safe yet (and let’s face it, come the end of the season we really ought to be), our home match against Manchester United is always one to whet the appetite. We’ve had some stonking games at the Boleyn in the past against the Red Devils. I’ll personally never forget the last day of the 1995 season — the title was up for grabs, and with Blackburn Rovers losing at home to Liverpool, had Manchester United beaten us, they would have won it.

At 1-1, it was like the Alamo, but our defence held firm to deny them. I always have a wry smile on my face when thinking of that sunny Sunday afternoon. It seems less likely that we’ll stop them from claiming yet another Championship this season — even after their recent defeat to Manchester City, they are still well clear at the top of the Premier League — but a win against Manchester United might just sow a seed of doubt in their minds, whilst absolutely confirming our status as a Premier League team for the second consecutive season.

It’s fair to say that the Reds have been pretty dominant in the Premier League this season, although whether that’s down to the quality that they have in their team, or that other sides have been poor remains open to question. There’s no doubt that the acquisition of Robin Van Persie has been a major reason why they’ve won so many games, but he has been in a poor run of form lately, which has been reflected in their recent results. Let’s hope he doesn’t find the knack of hitting the back of the net again, against us.

So what about our chances? They’re top of the away form book, having won 11 and lost only 2. On that basis alone, there’s no question: it will be difficult. However, they can be got at — stop the likes of Wayne Rooney from scoring and supply some decent balls to Carroll (I’m looking at you, Mr Jarvis), and they could be vulnerable. In other words, play to our strengths. As much as some fans might deride that style of football, it’s probably our best chance against this lot.

Manchester United have lost to both Manchester City and Chelsea recently, and goals have been harder to come by, which gives us some cause for hope. It’s also worth remembering that some members of the team will be playing for either their place in the team next season, or perhaps their place in another; for instance, Carlton Cole hasn’t weighed in with the goals this season, and surely he must be thinking that he needs to be playing to impress, if not us, then potential suitors. For our part, the team need to be as hard to beat as they were against Liverpool. The key thing is not to concede early; do that and the match could turn ugly. However, I believe that if the team play as well as they can, a result is definitely possible, particularly under the lights at Upton Park. I’m going for a draw.

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