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Friday 07 December 2012

Pallister: 'Manchester derby is more spicy than ever'

PLTV pundit and former United player predicts intense Manchester derby and shares his memories

  • Gary Pallister (right) did not relish his Manchester derby "tussles" with Niall Quinn

Ahead of his former side's trip to Manchester City, caught up with former Manchester United defender and now PLTV pundit Gary Pallister to discover his assessment of Sunday's lunchtime encounter, his own recollections of the Manchester derby and his explanation of what it was like to do battle with Niall Quinn. What sort of match are you anticipating?

Gary Pallister: It’ll be an intense game. They usually are. They've certainly been more spicy over recent years with the way City have spent money and winning their first trophy in a long time, in the form of the FA Cup and then winning the Barclays Premier League last year. It's added a lot more spice to the fixture that's for sure and it's much more important to the city of Manchester.

"To go unbeaten at home for all that time and to be unbeaten so far this season is incredible because it is very difficult to do"
Gary Pallister

I don't expect anything different, I'm sure United fans will be taunting the City fans about going out of Europe, much as they did last year when United failed to get through the group stage. I expect a very intense game with hopefully United coming out on top.

Man City are unbeaten in their last 37 home matches in the Barclays Premier League (W33, D4, L0). Why do you think they are so strong at home?

GP: Because they've got very good players. Teams can get very intimidated by going to Manchester City when you look at that team sheet and see the type of quality they've got - and you're in their territory, and perhaps teams are a little too negative when they go there.

Although some quarters have been questioning Mancini's job because they're out of Europe, to go unbeaten at home for that time and to be unbeaten so far this season is incredible because it is very difficult to do.

In the last six matches this fixture at Man City has never produced more than one goal. Can you see that trend continuing?

GP: That's a surprise to me, to be quite honest with you. When you look at the quality on display I think there will be goals in the match. I don't think either team has been as strong defensively as they should be. Certainly United have had problems.

They've never had a settled back four, never had a settled goalkeeper. I think that all contributes to the reasons why they've gone behind in so many games.

I don't think we look anywhere near as solid as we should do, but they are getting players back. [Phil] Jones and [Chris] Smalling are back getting games under their belt now and hopefully that will bring a bit more strength and solidity to the back four, because that has certainly been their Achilles heel in the early part of the season.

The hosts also have the best defence in the country with 11 conceded, but United have scored the most (37). Which is better, City's defence or United's attack?

GP: We'll see, won't we (laughs). I think United getting Robin van Persie was a great coup in the summer. He was a player I didn't think we'd be able to get hold of.

He's a proven goalscorer in the Barclays Premier League. He's a world-class player and I was delighted we managed to bring him to the club, and he's proven already what a great striker he is.

"Van Persie can score against the best defences in the world. He's got great ability to not just score goals but to create them as well"
Gary Pallister

He's formed a pretty decent partnership with [Wayne] Rooney and looks full of goals. I think he can score against the best defences in the world. He's got great ability to not just score goals but to create them as well.

It is going to be a great match-up to see whether they go at City and do what they did at Chelsea and really go for it in the early part of the match.

They went 2-0 up against Chelsea early on and showed great intent and it'll be interesting to see whether the manager decides to do the same thing against Chelsea on Sunday.

How does United's strikeforce compare to the one you played alongside at Old Trafford?

GP: I think the best time was in the year of the treble when we had four strikers. That's the happiest the manager has been with the strikers he had his squad.

We had Mark Hughes and Eric Cantona: if they weren't fit we were maybe bringing Giggsy into the centre or Brian McClair, so we never had as many options as the team that won the treble or the team right now.

I think the manager's happiest when he's got choices to make. He's got four quality strikers now in [Danny] Welbeck and [Javier] Hernandez, Rooney and Van Persie so he can perm anything from those four and more or less guarantee goals. I know Danny hasn't scored as many as he would like; he hasn't played as much as he would like, but they've all got goals in them.

What are your most vivid memories of the Manchester derby?

GP: The one I put to the back of my mind is the first one when we got beat 5-1, which they called the 'Demolition Derby'. That was one that still rankles.

Fortunately we managed to beat City 5-0 at Old Trafford two or three years later which eased the pain a little bit, but City's win at Old Trafford last season has made everybody forget the 'Demolition Derby' all those years ago because they scored six at Old Trafford.

The one that really sticks out is the one we won 3-2 at City. We were 2-0 down at half-time. I think Quinny [Niall Quinn] had scored both goals in the first half and we really got our teeth into the game second half, managed to get on even terms and then shortly before the end Roy Keane scored the winner to make it 3-2. That was one that gave me as much enjoyment as anything else.

What was it like to play against Niall Quinn?

GP: I used to hate playing against Quinny. You just knew you were going to get bombarded with high balls in the box. Quinny was much more than that, he was decent on the floor as well, but you just knew it was all about the long ball and heading the ball away and getting involved in tussles with him all day and I’ve got to say I really didn't enjoy playing in those games.

"I used to hate playing against Quinny"
Gary Pallister

I'd rather have played a good football match against a good footballing team rather than a long-ball team. They were great tussles, he's a great lad, we've spoken many times about the games we played against each other and the injuries we gave each other as well, but I didn't really enjoy the games as a whole.

What does it mean to play in a Manchester derby and does it carry greater significance now than it did when you were playing?

GP: I think it does. I think that's changed over the last few years. For us it was probably the Liverpool game that was the standout game, that was always the one we looked for because we were trying to emulate what Liverpool had done.

City at that time weren't always in the top flight, and apart from my first game when I got thumped 5-1 I wasn't beaten in another derby after that.

The significance has certainly changed because it's looked upon by many people and will be on Sunday as a title-decider. City won both games last year and ultimately won the league, so if you can take points of your rivals, and if United can beat City and end that Premier League run that they’re on at the moment, it might put a huge dent in City's psyche.

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Key Points

  • Gary Pallister says the Manchester derby is a potential title-decider
  • The PLP pundit believes summer "coup" Robin van Persie can unlock any defence
  • Former Manchester United defender says fixture more "spicy and intense" than ever