The battle for Manchester!

The battle for Manchester!

Defending champions United lock horns with City in highly-anticipated derby

The battle for Manchester!

Manchester United fans have been buying Marouane Fellaini wigs with their new Belgian showing signs he can add a cool head and quality passing to the midfield just in time for Sunday's derby against City.

Last season's champions and runners-up meet at the Etihad Stadium, hoping midweek Champions League success can ignite their domestic campaigns after some uninspired performances from both in their first four games, each taking just seven points.

While Wayne Rooney's return to form in Tuesday's 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen stole the headlines, Fellaini's physical presence and ability to hold the ball in his first start since signing just before the transfer deadline added a new dimension.

It was no coincidence that a side who had not scored in two of their last three league games and only netted from set pieces in the other were suddenly able to put together more meaningful charges forward with the big Belgian on the pitch.

Similarly, City, who had failed to repeat the scintillating showing of their season-opening demolition of Newcastle United, rediscovered some attacking flair in a stylish 3-0 win at Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday.

"It will give confidence for all the players," City manager Manuel Pellegrini told reporters.

"We have the derby next Sunday and always winning away in the Champions League, scoring three goals, having at least three or four more chances to score and a clean sheet – I think it will give all the players a lot of confidence."

City midfielder Yaya Toure, who like Fellaini offers a towering presence, creative instinct and ability to read a game, scored a sublime goal at Plzen and it could well be the battle between these two powerful players that proves key on Sunday.

It will be the first Manchester derby for both clubs' managers and they will be aware that City hold a slight advantage in recent years having taken 10 points to United's seven in league encounters in the past three seasons.

The return of captain Vincent Kompany, who made a successful comeback from a groin injury on Tuesday, will offer the hosts a further boost ahead of what he describes as a "special game."

"It is becoming one of the most sought-after fixtures in the world and it is always great to be involved in such games. I never take them for granted," the Belgian defender said.

This fixture two seasons ago, which City won 1-0, proved decisive as they went on to secure the Premier League crown on goal difference from their neighbours.

It is far too early in the season to be talking of the title race but it is nevertheless a crunch game with both sides keen to establish the edge on their opponents.

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