Big game, this one.  They’re all big games really, but this one is on the telly (again) and against a former United manager Phoenixlogo(again).  Yes, I know Pearson doesn’t really count.  He was at the club under Roeder and Allardyce (taking charge of two games) and has been back plenty of times since without comment so I’ll not start now.  So a big game to preview.

The Steve McClaren derby if you will.  You know those people who get home from the match (scrap that, they don’t go) and input ‘#cpfc + pardew’ into twitter and begin to RT whatever they can as a ‘told you so’ to the Palace fans that follow them – there are Derby fans who no doubt did the same as Steve McClaren started to stink out the North East.  Two cities, united by grief.

That was then and this is now.  Derby have had a ropey start. They’ve failed to score at home so far against Brighton and rafa17Vile (which is a canny tough start.  Apart from the game against Vile).  However, this is the Championship and should Derby take the points on Saturday night they’ll find themselves just a point behind Rafa’s resurgent United.

United on the other hand are in fine form.  Three clean sheets in a row.  We don’t look like losing.  We don’t smash teams, we just beat them really convincingly.  We start on fire.  We go nuts for the first ’30 and then sit off until ’65.  Then we plan to go again or kill the game, depending on the score.  It’s in game management.  It’s professional. It’s class.

The defence looks unbelievable and unbreakable. Teams are starting to get frustrated and do stupid things as they fail to work out how to fashion chances against a Rafa-drilled side giving nothing away.  Add in the ability of our forward thinking players, and Goufrann (harsh – he’s done really well and I love him a little bit for coming back into the manager’s plans like he has), and you’ve got a formidable side.

We’re in the middle of an incredibly tough run of fixtures before October looks like an incredibly kind list of games for gallowgate_flags_ad
United until January.  After we face Norwich at home at the end of this month we play all three promoted teams, the current bottom five as well as Forest, Birmingham, Brentford and Ipswich.  Those 13 games could produce 30+ points so the little run of Brighton, Derby, QPR, Wolves, Vile, Norwich producing 12 points would be lovely.  We’ve started that run of difficult games with that win over Brighton so 3 down 9 to go for me from the next 5.  I think we’ll win them all of course but looking at what we need.  I think 3 wins from the 4 games listed above would be a belting return.

But like Rafa I need to start taking things game by game and the first game is Derby.  I’m going early doors.  Get there for the two derbies on telly and then the big Derby game.  Stay over and then back to paradise the next day in NE25.  I think he’ll stick with the side that battered Brighton.  New signings create serious competition for places on the bench never mind the team.  The only reason he may change things is due to international late returns or injuries not reported in the media.  We could see debuts at some point for Atsu, Murphy and Lazaar.  God help Rafa determine who makes the squad and who doesn’t.

Derby have had to sell two first team players in Martin and Kendrick (a far bigger blow) and have just been humiliated by
near neighbours Burton – that is literally like Gateshead getting promoted season after season and then turning us over like our U21 teams turn them over in friendlies – as Derby did to Burton for years.  Not the best for the Rams.  It’ll be a tight game.  There’s only been more than one goal scored by a team in a Derby game once this season.  Pearson will keep it dead tight and United will need to defend well on set plays.

3.2k Mags travelling down to the East Midlands for a televised game in the second division.  Derby have probably sold out as they get decent crowds anyway at this level and they’ll really fancy claiming this scalp to kick start this season.  Expect one moment of quality or a mistake to win it.  For United. Of course.

Prediction 1-0 United


 ALEX HURST  – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892 


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