LONDON, Oct 23, (AFP): Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne is relishing the chance to inspire his first derby victory against Manchester United when the Premier League leaders visit Old Trafford this weekend. De Bruyne will experience the hostility and passion of the Manchester derby for the first time following his £55 million ($84 million) move from Wolfsburg in August.
The 24-year-old Belgian has already made a big impact at City and added to his popularity with the stoppage-time goal that clinched a crucial Champions League win against Sevilla on Wednesday.
From the Denis Law flick that effectively relegated United in 1974 all the way through to Mario Balotelli’s unveiling of his “why always me” t-shirt during a 6-1 romp four years ago, City fans have always reserved a special place in their hearts for players who can inflict misery on the old enemy.
Now De Bruyne, who has five goals in nine appearances for Manuel Pellegrini’s side, has set his sights on joining the select group of City stars who have tormented United.
City have won on three of their last four visits to Old Trafford, but they lost 4-2 there last season, a result United surprisingly achieved without a goal from Wayne Rooney.
With 11 career goals in the Manchester derby, Rooney has been a constant menace to City and the United captain, whose brilliant overhead kick to win the derby in 2011, would dearly love to mark his 30th birthday on Saturday with another memorable contribution.
A Rooney-inspired triumph would be especially timely as Louis van Gaal’s team will leapfrog City to the top of the table if they win and Arsenal drop points against Everton on Saturday.
That fixture at the Emirates Stadium has assumed extra importance for Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, who knows his side can’t afford to rest on their laurels following Tuesday’s vital Champions League win over Bayern Munich.
The Gunners have won their last three Premier League matches and Mertesacker said: “We want to play a part in the title race. We need to have a certain consistency otherwise it will be difficult.
On Sunday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will take charge of his first home Premier League match when Southampton visit Anfield.
Meanwhile, Steve McClaren has tried to play down the significance of his first Wear-Tyne derby as Newcastle manager.
The Magpies head for the Stadium of Light on Sunday determined to break a run of five successive defeats against bitter rivals Sunderland, who are still waiting for their first win this season after a 1-0 defeat in new boss Sam Allardyce’s first game at West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
Newcastle are also in the relegation zone so the stakes are high, but McClaren said: “It’s just another game. We don’t know anything about the five previous derbies.
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho admitted on Friday he could not say if Chelsea had finally turned the corner after a disastrous start to their Premier League title defence.
Mourinho’s side have recorded back-to-back clean sheets after the international break, beating Aston Villa in the league before securing an away point at Dinamo Kiev in the Champions League.
Despite that Villa win Chelsea are struggling in a lowly 12th position.
The Chelsea manager believes his side’s performances in those two games signalled a return to the defensive strength that marked their title winning campaign last season.
But the Portuguese is not ready to declare that the Blues’ difficulties are a thing of the past – although he insists the unity in his squad has never wavered, despite repeated reports of tensions between the manager and some of his players.
He said: “I don’t know (if the bad start is behind them). I just know that the team was always together. The players were always together.
P W D L GF GA Pts
Man City 9 7 0 2 24 8 21
Arsenal 9 6 1 2 16 7 19
Man Utd 9 6 1 2 15 8 19
West Ham 9 5 2 2 20 12 17
Leicester 9 4 4 1 19 17 16
Palace 9 5 0 4 12 10 15
Tottenham 9 3 5 1 11 7 14
Southampton 9 3 4 2 15 12 13
Everton 9 3 4 2 12 11 13
Liverpool 9 3 4 2 8 10 13
Stoke 9 3 3 3 9 10 12
Chelsea 9 3 2 4 14 17 11
West Brom 9 3 2 4 7 11 11
Swansea 9 2 4 3 10 11 10
Watford 9 2 4 3 6 10 10
Norwich 9 2 3 4 14 20 9
Bournemouth 9 2 2 5 11 17 8
Newcastle 9 1 3 5 12 19 6
Aston Villa 9 1 1 7 8 15 4
Sunderland 9 0 3 6 8 19 3
Note: Standings read as played, won, draw, lost, goals for, goals against & points.