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Monday 08 April 2013

Hargreaves: An early goal could set up a classic

Owen Hargreaves who played for both teams in the Manchester derby previews the match

  • Owen Hargreaves was attending the Man Utd flagship Barclays Spaces for Sports site

  • Hargreaves played for both sides in the Manchester derby

  • Hargreaves thinks the city of Manchester could be split halfway with a 3-3 draw likely

Ahead of this evening's Manchester derby, premierleague.com spoke to Owen Hargreaves who played in three of these matches in the Barclays Premier League, twice for United and once for City.

Premierleague.com: What are your memories of the Manchester derby?
Owen Hargreaves:
It is always a great game. The Barclays Premier League is, you can argue, the biggest league in the world, with most viewers worldwide and a fixture like this is the best of that - two of the best teams in the country, and so many talented individuals. It is a privilege to be a part of these games and have the opportunity to express yourself on the biggest stage.

"It is a privilege to be a part of these games"
Owen Hargreaves

I played in the match that commemorated the Munich disaster and my first game for United was against Man City. They were big games then but they have become bigger now. City have taken a completely different position since then. They are not the underdog any more with the team they have assembled.

PL.com: How much will the previous encounters - the 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium this season and City’s 6-1 win at Old Trafford last season -  be on the players’ minds once kick-off takes place?
OH:
You've got to have a short memory in football because it is one of the only industries in the world where you have a “final exam” every three or seven days. Those matches are so far in the past.

PL.com: Where do you think this match could be won and lost?
OH:
There are so many influential players across the pitch. The ‘keepers are going to be important, two great young 'keepers, who will have to make saves with all the offensive players on the pitch. The difference has been United’s strikers, who have scored more goals and have been more consistent than City’s front three. The midfield battle is a big one. Yaya Toure and David Silva, if they are firing on all cylinders, they are two of the best players in the Barclays Premier League.

PL.com: What are the reasons for Robin van Persie’s lack of goals recently for United?
OH:
I don’t think he is struggling as such. He wasn’t going to keep up his scoring clip that he had earlier in the season because it was on the Messi or Ronaldo level. He’s had a great season. OK, he hasn’t scored a ton of goals of late but Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez have been scoring instead so as long as the team are successful in scoring goals, it is fine. I am sure his goals will come again because he is too good a player for it not too happen.

"The difference has been United’s strikers"
Owen Hargreaves

PL.com: What has been the difference between the two Manchester sides this season compared with last season?
OH:
I don’t think United’s football has improved as such. They have just been more consistent than City. United have remained focused while City have changed systems, with players coming in trying to integrate after such a successful campaign last season, while Vincent Kompany, who was influential last season, has been a big miss. Joleon Lescott, with whom Kompany had a good relationship, has hardly played.

PL.com: What is your prediction for the match?
OH:
I hope there are a lot of goals. There are so many offensive players on the pitch that if there is an early goal it becomes an all-out assault with free-flowing play and a great advertisement for the Barclays Premier League. 

PL.com: Can you stick your neck out?
OH: I will take a 3-3. City have nothing to lose and with their attack they are best going forward anyway. If Kompany, Toure and Silva are all on song they could cause a surprise. So I will say 3-3, but City could nick it.

PL.com: What are you up to these days?
OH: I am at an event for Barclays Spaces for Sport, where it is an opportunity for young people to come together and play sports, football, basketball or netball and other sports in a safe environment. Here at the Old Barn is the flagship for the scheme, but they have numerous facilities throughout the UK and they have expanded to eight different countries so it is a really big initiative for people young and old to come together.

Outside of that, I have been doing a lot of media work and I am going to start getting my coaching badges. I have yet to decide whether to go through a club or via the FA. It’s a big change from not having your football boots on, but change is inevitable for every player. It’s come a bit earlier for me than I would have anticipated.

Owen Hargreaves was speaking at the Manchester United flagship Barclays Spaces for Sports site ahead of the Manchester Derby. To find your nearest site, go to Barclays.com/spacesforsports

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Key Points

  • Owen Hargreaves is hoping for a high-scoring Manchester derby
  • Hargreaves cites United's greater consistency as reason for their 15-point lead this season
  • Former England midfielder was speaking at a Barclays Spaces for Sport