Football Expert & Columnist
Jamie Redknapp says City might win the derby, but isn't backing them to finish above United this season.
Last Updated: 09/11/10 12:51pm
I can see Manchester City winning the derby on Wednesday night, but that won't make them the top dogs in Manchester just yet.
In fact, I don't think City will finish above United this season. They'd lost three in a row - to Arsenal, Wolves, and Lech Posnan - before beating West Brom on Sunday and there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
Sunday's win was a huge result for City because, rightly or wrongly, everybody was talking about Roberto Mancini coming under intense pressure, simply because of the money they've spent.
In my mind there's no doubt that City have the strongest squad in the Premier League. When you look at the players and options they have for each position, you can't match them.
But a strong squad doesn't necessarily make a strong team. They have to gel and perform together. It's all very well having a very expensive jigsaw, but you have to put the pieces together.
In some ways, Mancini almost has too many good players and he's finding it hard to find the balance. Maybe it's the Italian mentality, but at times he plays three in midfield at home when he doesn't really need to. Do you really need Nigel De Jong, Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry in the same team?
I understand his dilemma because who does he leave out? Yaya Toure cost a fortune, De Jong is their main spark at times and Barry is an England international. It's not easy for Mancini to leave out a big name.
But player for player they are usually better than the opposition going forward, so why not just go out and beat them? Why not let the players off the leash a little bit?
That problem is made more difficult by the fact that only one of his big-name forward players has been firing so far - and that's Carlos Tevez. They still seem reliant on the little man and he showed how important he is on his return to the team on Sunday. He seems to inspire the rest and you can bet he'll be up for it against his old team on Wednesday.
We're all intrigued by the exciting Mario Balotelli and it's a huge loss for City - and for all the neutrals watching - that he will miss the derby after his sending off against West Brom. He has that bit of devilment about him and he seems to play on the edge, but we don't know what he can do in the Premier League yet. He will be well worth watching for that reason.
With Emmanuel Adebayor, David Silva, Adam Johnson, Shaun Wright-Phillips and James Milner all in the squad, you can't fit them all in, but I've no doubt that Mancini will stick with the three holding midfielders against United because that's, simply, how he likes to play.
It's hard to say what City should be aiming for this season. Given the money they've spent, people will say they have to go for the title, but it takes time to build a team.
I'd say their essential objective for this season is to finish in the top four. They missed out on a Champions League spot by a fraction last year and they cannot afford to miss out again. If that were to happen they'd have to question both the recruitment policy and the management team.
But right now, there's no way you can't rule them out because no team has found a level of consistency in the Premier League and all of the challengers for the top positions have stuttered.
It's very tight and if a team can really grasp hold of the division, get some confidence and go on a six or seven-game winning run then you never know what might happen. You can't write anybody off this year.
City are capable of doing that, but Mancini must find a way of knitting together the squad first.
There have been lots of stories about problems in the dressing room and at a club like that, there are always going to be rumours. There are a lot of egos in that dressing room and players will be unhappy when they're not playing. Mancini is paid a lot of money to handle those players and if they don't pull their weight he needs to sell them in January.
You can't afford to have unhappy players having a negative influence because once that poison spreads, it really can infect the rest of the players. That could cost City dearly, so Mancini needs to address that issue when it arises.
What I would say is I've never been in a happy dressing room when you're losing matches. All these rumours about dressing room unrest came out when they were on a bad run, but I bet you won't hear anything now they've beaten West Brom.
They could all come to the fore again if they lose to United on Wednesday night, but that's football. A couple of good results and nobody cares, but after a couple of bad results the unhappy players get the opportunity to spread their poison.
As for Manchester United, they have not looked convincing this season and I think it's fairly simple to explain why.
Two seasons ago they had Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney going forward. Last season, they lost Ronaldo and Tevez, but Rooney was banging in goals left, right and centre and was the best player in the league.
This season, Rooney has been out injured and when he has been in the team he hasn't performed. Quite simply he hasn't been physically or mentally right.
So to lose out on the services of those three players has been a big loss and explains their unconvincing start.
Other players need to step up and while Dimitar Berbatov has done it at times, he hasn't been as consistent as he maybe needs to be. When he scored a hat-trick to beat Liverpool 3-2 we all thought he'd be full of confidence and would go on a run, but he hasn't scored a goal since then. I don't know if he has relaxed or gone into his shell, but his lack of goals lately has been staggering.
It's hard to see where the spark might come from for United. I looked at the team that was sent out against Wolves and it was almost like Ferguson's Carling Cup team. When Nani, Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs are out of the side they are lacking something and the squad doesn't have the depth of Chelsea, let alone City.
But what they do have is a winning mentality and a never-say-die attitude. They scored a 90th-minute winner to beat Wolves and they are right in the title race, as they usually are.
People will talk about this game as the moment when City could overtake their great rivals, but people said that last year. We saw United beat them with late goals home and away in the Premier League and also in the Carling Cup, so City still have a long way to go before they're top dogs in that city.
I can see City winning the game on Wednesday, but I wouldn't say for a moment that would be the end of Manchester United. In fact, I would still back United to finish higher than City this season.
However, you have to face facts. It's only a matter of time before City win something; it's inevitable. They don't have the history that United have, but they have the money and that means they have the future.
If the manager can find the right blend then there'll be no stopping them, especially when they get into the Champions League because they have the money to buy the best players. Who wouldn't want to go to Manchester City and be paid a fortune to play with great players in a great stadia? Players don't care about history, they care about the future.
Whether you like the methods or not, City have brought a new dimension to the Premier League. Another superpower has come into the equation alongside Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool and that's one of the reasons I'm really excited about Wednesday night's game. It's another huge showdown for the neutrals to look forward to every season.
I really hope City go for it because if they sit back that will only encourage United. I think if City approach it on the front foot with ambition and character then they can reap the rewards.
I think City could do it on Wednesday night - and that will be the next step towards a very bright future for the blue half of Manchester.