Welcome to our latest digital matchday programme as we prepare for the visit of Sheffield United.
The Blades caused one of the shocks of the season beating Manchester United on Wednesday evening and on the back of Burnley’s win away to Liverpool, it proves that when managers and players say there no easy games in the Premier League, they are not just being respectful, it is a fact.
That’s why City will be expecting a far tougher test than the league table might suggest and top versus bottom it may be, but confidence will be high for Chris Wilder’s side.
City will look the end January with another victory in what has been an incredible start to 2021.
We have won all eight games so far this month, with a goals aggregate of 21-2 – that includes wins over Chelsea, United and Villa – and that’s why we go into this game as leaders of the division.
But the hard work has only just begun, with February looking particularly tough.
Trips to Liverpool and Arsenal are on the near horizon as well as home games against Spurs and West Ham, not to mention FA Cup and Champions League matches.
If we are still top after February, who knows what this team can achieve?
But first, the Blades.
In this edition we have Pep Guardiola’s manager notes and Buzzer’s regular and entertaining column.
We have a detailed look at what has been an incredibly tough campaign so far for Sheffield United, as well as the history of this fixture.
Kev Cummins recalls a photoshoot with Sheffield band ABC and we have another serving of Marc Riley’s new Mixed Grill feature and Ged Keegan's Dream XI.
Plenty to keep you entertained ahead of the game!
Hello everyone and a warm Etihad Stadium welcome to Chris Wilder and his Sheffield United staff.
Chris and his team have done a wonderful job at Sheffield, bringing them through a tough league, the Championship, to a very successful first campaign back in the Premier League.
They have found it harder this season to get results, but we know from our recent trip to Bramall Lane that they are a tough side to break down and that they will fight for every ball and make life complicated for us this afternoon. They will also have gained confidence from their midweek win.
We arrive to the game and back home in great spirits after victories on our travels over Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup and at West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday night when we played some excellent football in a 5-0 success.
We have been on a good run of form in all competitions and have got ourselves into a good rhythm and built a lot of confidence. In that sense what has happened recently on the pitch is important but the only thing that matters now is the next game and being ready to do our best.
The coaches, the players, and I cannot be looking all day at league tables and worrying what else is going on around us. We need to be laser focused on preparation, on rest and on producing the same sort of fluid football we displayed at The Hawthorns in midweek.
We kept another clean sheet which is important to us and we took a big proportion of the chances that we created. Our goals were all well worked and there was some excellent finishing.
Congratulations to the team for the performance. Except for the first two or three minutes when we could not seem to leave our box, the rest of the game was good.
What we are always looking for is movement in the right moment and what we want is to move the ball more than we run. The players' movements up front were so good in the way we scored the goals.
But all Tuesday night did was finish the first half of the season. The vital thing is to be calm, like when we were 12th in the table.
This is the Premier League. It is so tough. You see the teams up front like Leicester City and West Ham United and right now they look unbeatable.
Every game is so complicated.
It is important we continue to have a good run and realise why we are here and go to the next one which is Sheffield United, today.
Enjoy the game everyone and stay safe.
Our Club Ambassador's thoughts of the week gone by...
It was a very sad start to the week with Colin Bell’s funeral on Tuesday.
When you have known somebody for more than 50 years, played alongside them and continued to be friends long after, to lose them out of your life is hard to take.
He was a wonderful footballer and a great man and I’ll miss him terribly.
I said a few words at the funeral and just about managed to get through it, but what I found particularly sad was when Colin’s coffin was driven around the Etihad Stadium one last time, nobody could be there because of the pandemic.
If people had been allowed, there would have been thousands there, because he was so loved by our fans who thought so much of him.
One day, we’ll be able to pay our respects to Colin together and I know City fans will do something very special for the most loved player in our history.
Just a few hours later, I was on my way to watch the team play against West Brom and how fitting that Ilkay Gundogan – wearing the No.8 shirt Colin immortalised – should score two wonderful goals in a superb all-round team performance.
No disrespect to West Brom, but we were on a different level altogether.
Every single player in our team can control, pass and move intelligently and we were superb – it’s very rare you see a misplaced pass in this team and based on the evidence of the past month, we are back to our very best.
We had a bit of a blip, but we’re out of it now and I’m excited for the remainder of the season.
And we still have Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero to come back…
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to go back to Cheltenham and watch our FA Cup tie.
It’s the town I grew up in and the club my father managed, so it was a special day from start to finish.
I went back to my old school – which hadn’t changed much in 60-plus years – and the ground was basically the same apart from a new stand or two and a few other improvements.
It was a great game, too – Cheltenham played really well and showed just why the FA Cup is so special.
I hope they can take that form and performance into their league programme because I’d love to see them get promoted.
On to Sheffield United and I’m expecting a difficult game. They may be at the foot of the table, but I think they’ve not had much luck this season.
They have lost a lot of games, but most of them by just one goal, so they’ve not been playing as badly as their position suggests.
Even when we won 1-0 at Bramall Lane earlier in the season, it was a hard-earned 1-0 win and their victory over Manchester United in midweek will have given them a lot of confidence coming into this game.
They are organised and work hard so we’re in for another tough match.
That’s all from me, take care and speak soon.
THE SEASON SO FAR
Few believed the form Sheffield United ended last season with would carry on into the new campaign, but that's how things have panned out.
The Blades lost their last three matches of 2019/20, meaning they finished a highly respectable ninth rather than an incredible fifth in their first season back in the top flight.
They were a team nobody liked facing, especially at Bramall Lane, but a dreadful start to 2020/21 became a terrible first half of the campaign – the worst first 19 games of any Premier League side, in fact.
The opening minutes of the new campaign were perhaps a portent of what lay ahead, as United found themselves 2-0 down after just six minutes of their home game with Wolves.
That would be the final score in that match, and a penalties Carabao Cup loss at Burnley would follow a few days later.
An early sending off away to Villa made a difficult game far harder and the 10-man Blades would head back to South Yorkshire with a narrow 1-0 loss.
A derby against Leeds United would offer the chance to finally get their season up and running, but when Patrick Bamford scored an 88th-minute winner, Blades fans must have wondered where their first points would come from.
But manager Chris Wilder could at least take heart that, in general, his side were only losing by the odd goal – as was the case in the fourth league game – a 2-1 loss at Arsenal.
Fellow strugglers Fulham were next up at Bramall Lane, and though the Blades were expected to win this game, Billy Sharp’s late penalty at least rescued a 1-1 draw and registered a first point on the board.
And there was more encouragement in the next two games – despite both ending in defeat – but there was no shame in a 2-1 loss away to Liverpool or a 1-0 home defeat to City.
Five defeats from six games, four of those losses by just a single goal.
And United were very much in the game away to Chelsea in the next match, trailing 2-1 until a couple of late goals gave Frank Lampard’s team a somewhat flattering 4-1 win.
But the defeats kept coming.
Successive 1-0 losses at home to West Ham and away to West Brom meant just one point from a possible 30 had been taken – but Wilder believed the tide would turn sooner or later.
Against Leicester City the Blades were level at 1-1 until a last-minute Jamie Vardy goal gave the Foxes a 2-1 victory at Bramall Lane.
Southampton then brushed United aside with a 3-0 win at St Mary’s, but the Blades would push Manchester United all the way in a thrilling 3-2 home defeat.
Wilder’s side just weren’t getting the rub of the green, as further illustrated in the next match away to Brighton.
Ten-man United led 1-0 until the 87th-minute and though a 1-1 draw was a good result give the circumstances, it felt like another slap in the face for a side marooned at the foot of the table.
And still it got worse, with 1-0 losses at home to Everton and away to Burnley ending a miserable 2020 and taking their seasonal single-goal losses tally to 10.
Surely 2021 had to be better?
Initially, it wasn’t, with a 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, but things began to improve – at last.
United targeted the FA Cup to get some much-needed confidence and though League One side Bristol Rovers pushed them hard, a 3-2 victory gave Wilder’s side a first win of the season.
The Blades then gave their best performance of the campaign in the next home game, beating Newcastle 1-0 to end a run of 20 Premier League games without a win, 18 of which had ended in defeat.
But a 3-1 home defeat to Spurs and that unwanted halfway mark and confirmation that the Blades had the worst top flight record since Bolton in 1902/03, underlined the battle that lay ahead.
The FA Cup again provided a welcome distraction and a 2-1 win over Plymouth made it three wins in four for a resurgent United, and last Wednesday, easily their best result of the season with a 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford making it four wins in five.
It means Sheffield United arrive at the Etihad 10 points from safety, but with genuine hope that they can pull of what would be perhaps the greatest escape of them all.
CITY V sheffield utd:
Saturday’s clash with Sheffield United will be the 125th time the two sides have met in all competitions...
The fixture dates back to 1893 when City were Ardwick FC and United won the first four meetings with just two wins for the Blues in the first 11 games.
Our first victory was in 1900, but from 1906 to 1912, United again dominated with a further eight wins, three draws and just losses.
So, from the opening 25 clashes, City won six compared to the Blades’ 15 and a number of those matches ended in a heavy losses with United scoring six, five (twice) and four (three times).
Over the next decade, up to 1922, things needed to improve – and they did – but only slightly.
After three wins on the bounce for City from 1913 to 1914 – part of a six match unbeaten streak – the Blades would lose just one of the next 13 games, though eight of those were draws.
Sheffield United were the first team to play us at our new Maine Road home in August 1923, with City edging a 2-1 win, and our biggest triumph at Bramall Lane yet came in 1924 with a 5-0 win.
United’s response in 1925/26 season was emphatic, with City losing 8-3 in South Yorkshire and 4-2 at Maine Road – all in the space of nine days!
But from 1928 to 1938, City finally gained the upper hand, winning eight and drawing three of the 13 games played during that period.
By the time war broke out in 1939, the clubs had met 64 times in total - more than half of the 124 games we have played overall.
As a result, the next 60 matches were more evenly spread over 82 years.
Between 1948 and 1956, City went 10 games unbeaten against the Blades, winning seven and drawing three, but during the 1960s, City won just two of eight matches as the fortunes of the fixture continued to ebb and flow either way.
But the 1970s were City’s, losing just two of a dozen clashes, six of which went the Blues’ way.
By the 1980s, the meetings were becoming more infrequent and just six clashes took place and City winning four meant that from a run of18 games, the Blades had won just three.
And the 1990s followed a similar pattern, with City winning six, drawing six and losing just twice stretching United’s poor run in this fixture to just five wins in 32 games over three decades.
Since 2000, there have only been nine meetings in all competitions – one being our infamous ‘Balloongate’ FA Cup loss at Bramall Lane in 2008.
There have only been five Premier League meetings, with City winning four and drawing the other.
Interestingly, the Blades have failed to score in all five of those matches, with City winning 1-0 three times and the other being a 2-0 win.
And United have failed to score a single goal on their last eight visits to Maine Road and the Etihad – dating back to 1991 with no away win since 1987.
Overall, City have the edge in the 124 clashes...
Premier League Stats
Squad number: 10
Hit woodwork: 1
Headed goals: 1
Right-foot goals: 3
Left-foot goals: 1
Penalties scored: 2
Free-kicks scored: 0
On target: 11
Shooting accuracy: 50%
Yellow cards: 2
Red cards: 1
Clubs: Sheffield United, Rushden & Diamonds (loan), Scunthorpe United, Sheffield United, Doncaster Rovers (loan), Doncaster Rovers, Southampton, Nottingham Forest (loan), Reading (loan), Doncaster Rovers (loan), Leeds United, Sheffield United
International caps (England): 0
International goals: 0
Club career appearances (all comps): 596
Club career goals (all comps): 247
The journey over the Snake Pass hasn't been that well-trodden by City and Sheffield United players, but we’ve found a decent selection...
Let’s start with our only current player to have played for both clubs – lifelong Blades fan Kyle Walker.
Walker began his career with his hometown club, playing seven times before being loaned out to Northampton and then joining Spurs.
He returned on loan to Bramall Lane in 2009/10 for the season and played a further 28 matches.
Manchester City Women’s boss Gareth Taylor joined the Blades from Crystal Palace, and would stay with the club for four seasons, making 105 appearances and scoring 27 goals.
He signed for City in 1998 for a £400,000 fee and stayed the best part of two seasons, playing 53 times and scoring 10 goals.
Kean Bryan may have come through the City Academy and never made a first team appearance, but after loan spells with Bury and Oldham, he joined Sheffield United in 2018 on a three-year deal.
Bryan scored his first Blades goal in the midweek win over Manchester United.
Central defender Brian Gayle joined City from Wimbledon in 1988 and skippered the Blues during a two-year spell.
After leaving for Ipswich, he signed for Sheffield United in 1991 and stayed with the club for five seasons.
Combative midfielder Michael Brown started in City’s youth ranks before moving up to the senior side where he played more than 100 games over a four-year period.
Brown signed for the Blades in December 1999, becoming an integral player for the club and went on to make 174 appearances over a five-year stay and enjoyed an incredible 2002/03 campaign when he scored 22 goals.
Jack Rodwell’s time with City was beset by injury and he played just 25 times in two years.
He signed for the Blades in 2019 but has made just two appearances to date.
City favourite David White made 343 starts during a lengthy spell at Maine Road.
After joining Leeds United, he played the last three years of his career with Sheffield United before retiring in 1998.
Finally, goalkeeper Simon Tracey was with the Blades for 15 years, making more than 300 appearances.
He was briefly on loan with City in 1994, but after conceding five goals to Manchester United at Old Trafford, he only played three times before returning to Bramall Lane.
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Name: Tijl Schonkeren
Favourite player: Kevin De Bruyne
Tijl’s story: Tijl is passionate about football and cycling. He started playing football aged five at Lommel SK, now a member of City Football Group, and is still playing there as wing back. His favourite player is Kevin De Bruyne (of course) and his favourite teams are Lommel SK, Belgium Red Devils and Manchester City. He has been ball boy for Lommel SK for the past two years and he wants to become football team manager in the future. Pep is his great example!
His favourite City moment is Vincent Kompany's screamer against Leicester in 2019. His younger brother Emiel and sister Kate are twins. He loves his two cats Coco and James.
Ged Keegan was part of the City side that beat Newcastle United 2-1 to win the League Cup in 1976 – and that would be our last major silverware for 35 years.
Keegan was part of the City team for the best part of five years having come through the youth ranks and skippered our reserves to the Central League title.
He also played in the first ever England Under-21 match.
After 49 appearances and three goals, he moved to Oldham Athletic where he stayed for five years before briefly playing for Mansfield Town and Rochdale.
Here, Ged selects his all-time City XI…
MARC'S NEW Q&A SERIES FOR BLUES FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE: NEXT UP, KEVIN PARKER...
I first met Kevin many blue moons ago when he worked for the club and up until the last few seasons, he sat a couple of rows in front of me in Block 229. Kevin has had a long association with City Legend Gary Owen and it was this ‘friend of a friend’ aspect which led me to one of the most nerve-wracking moments of my life. Kevin didn’t dangle me over the end of the Colin Bell Stand. Oh no - it was much worse than that. What he did was put me in the firing line for a grilling from Gary in front of a group of fellow Blues!
Of course Gary was great, didn’t put me on the spot and didn’t make me look like a Muppet, which lets be honest - is no mean feat!
So - now the football boot is on the other foot….MINE! Enjoy my turn to put Kevin in the spotlight….
Over to you Kevin!
My name is Kevin Parker. I am 60 years old, have lived in Manchester all my life and have had a season ticket every season since 1973.
I joined the Supporters Club in 1976 and became an official of my branch in 1980.
I was elected on to the Executive Committee in 1998 and became the General Secretary in 2000 so this year is my 23rd on the Committee.
I have two sons aged 29 and 24 who are both City fans and I am a Trustee of CITC and the OSC Representative on the City Matters Group.
I have no other interests, I just don't have the time:
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF GOING TO A FOOTBALL MATCH?
I remember this well. It was on my 10th birthday on 26th August 1970. City played Blackpool at Maine Road. My dad was a Blackpool fan and took me, I am sure, in the hope that I would be one, too. City won 2-0 (Bell, Lee) and I came home a City fan. The rest, as they say, is history.
WHAT IS THE MOST PECULIAR OR MEMORABLE THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO YOU AT A MATCH?
You know me Marc, and my life was, at one point, complex to say the least. So, maybe the time I ended up sitting watching a game at the Etihad with my ex-wife, my ex- girlfriend and my then boyfriend is the most memorable. But maybe that is a story for another time...
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND PREVENT ONE MATCH FROM BEING PLAYED -WHAT MATCH WOULD THAT BE - AND WHY?
Oh gosh, at my age there are so many. In reality I would probably say none as without them we probably would never have had the Aguerooooo moment, but it I had to choose then Luton at home when we lost 1-0l and got relegated. I think that was the start of one of the worst periods in the Club's history and we didn't really recover until Kevin Keegan came along.
WHICH TEAM ARE YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE OPPONENTS - AND WHY?
Liverpool, Apart from our dreadful record at Anfield. It is just a difficult place to go, sorry.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVOURITE MAN CITY TERRACE SONG OR CHANT - AND WHY?
I'm City ’til I Die - That's me.
HAVE YOU EVER MET ONE OF YOUR MAN CITY HEROES… IF SO - WHO…AND HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE?
In my role as General Secretary of the OSC I have been incredibly lucky to meet so many of the players I grew up watching. The list is endless and none of them have disappointed, they have all been humble. Apart from Gary Owen who, of course, ended up being my business partner and great, great friend. I would probably say Uwe Rosler has been the nicest. We have kept in touch even when Uwe has been in Sweden and now Germany. Uwe truly loves City and has a wonderful family that I am glad to have the pleasure of knowing.
IF YOU COULD INVITE ANY MAN CITY PLAYER - PRESENT OR PAST - TO YOURS FOR TEA AND BISCUITS - WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Alan Oakes - of course Alan made more first team appearances for City than any other player but since retiring from football has kept away from the limelight. I suppose the nosey part of me would like to know why and also what he thinks of football today and how it all compares. I suppose I would also try to persuade him to maybe just come back to the Etihad for one game so all the current day football supporters can show him the respect that his appearance record deserves.
HAVE YOU EVER SHED A TEAR - OF JOY - OR PAIN - AT A CITY MATCH?
Losing the FA Cup Final to Spurs, Luton at home getting relegated, Liverpool at home when we thought a draw would keep us up. Charlton at home when we got promoted. Play Off final v Gillingham; last game at Maine Road, FA Cup Semi-final v United and final v Stoke; United at home when Vinny scored, Yaya at Newcastle, Agueroooooo - I cry easily and a lot.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT MAINE ROAD?
It was a different matchday experience really so has a lot of nostalgia about it but in truth my heart is at the Etihad. The best moments as a City fan have been there and I have managed to share them with my sons and friends and family.
WHO DO YOU THINK WOULD WIN IN AN ARM WRESTLING MATCH… YAYA TOURE - OR KYLE WALKER?
Yaya, if he is losing he will just cuff Kyle across the back of the head!
IF YOU COULD PICK ONE CURRENT CITY PLAYER TO BE ON YOUR PUB QUIZ TEAM - WHO WOULD IT BE - AND WHY?
Oh either John Stones just because he is such a cool dude, who wouldn’t want to hang around with him? Or KDB. Kevin speaks four languages, is the best midfielder in world football and probably doesn’t drink so he could be the designated driver.
KEVIN CUMMINS COLUMN
As always, Kev raids his archive to find a link with our next opponents. This time, it's Sheffield's ABC..
Today I thought I’d feature one of my favourite Pop bands: ABC, who formed in Sheffield in the early 80s. Yes, I could have done an overall look at the Sheffield music scene: Cabaret Voltaire, Floy Joy, Chaak, Def Leppard, Clock DVA, Jarvis Cocker, Joe Cocker, Heaven 17, The Human League and, erm, The Arctic Moneys - but I’ll save them for another rainy day … and Martin is a Stockport lad - he’s a good friend of our own Mike Pickering and has even recorded with him - during the M People days.
I photographed ABC for their first NME cover in July 81. They hadn’t gone full Roxy Music style sequinned suits back then, and Martin wanted to do the shots in Sheffield University’s gym. It was all slightly incongruous for a rock ’n’ roll session, but it worked really well at the time. It was also very in tune with The Face Magazine ethic too. The band - especially Martin, really understood that a strong look was equally as important as the songs.
I then went to New York with them when they played the Palladium, but unfortunately only had time to shoot some Live Photos where they played in front of a very cool - if bemused - NYC crowd.
The gold disc photo was for a ‘trillion' sales of their hit, Poison Arrow and the full on colour glitter shot was taken at the BBC studios on Oxford Road Manchester.
A few years later I was looking to shoot a photo feature each week with a musician of my choice, and I thought the idea of shooting them in their favourite place or a place that meant something to them, would give me the potential to rack up the air miles and go to some luxury destinations. But that wasn’t quite what happened.
My first choice was Billy Bragg, who didn’t choose New York City - which he told me was his favourite place - no. He wanted to go back the subway at South Kensington where he began his career by busking near the tube station.
So next, I thought I’d ask Martin Fry. Surely it’d be Mustique, or the Chateau Mormont Hotel in West Hollywood. Somewhere where that sequinned glitter wouldn’t look out of place.
“ Great idea, Kevin. Let’s go to Sainsbury’s in Ladbroke Grove.”
“It’s my favourite place in the world. I go early, do all my thinking while I’m doing my shopping. Some of my best lyrics have come from walking up and down those aisles.”
So not only wasn’t I getting a trip to somewhere amazing. I had to get to Sainsbury’s with the early shopping brigade to photograph Martin with his trolley.
The next person I had planned for the series was Lloyd Cole - and the first time I’d photographed him was in the Crimplene trouser department at M&S in Edinburgh - for The Face Magazine.
I couldn’t see it getting better. I stopped right then. This was the final shot of that series. I gave up on the idea of getting someone to take me to luxury destinations.
I’m still open to offers if someone wants to revive my idea though. But nowhere indoors or under 90 degrees please.