Shaun Goater will return to the Etihad Stadium this evening and receive his usual hero’s welcome - and he is hoping it will be a very happy homecoming.
Goater, who was signed as a journeyman striker from Bristol City in 1998 for just £400,000, went to score more than a 100 goals for the Blues (including two in the last Maine Road derby in 2002) and in doing so became one of the most popular players in City’s history.
His song, ‘Feed the Goat’ made him a household name and though he has been back in Bermuda for six years, he admits Manchester still feels like home.
“I was just doing what I was paid to do but it’s fantastic that the City fans still hold me in such esteem,” said Goat, who will be the special guest in City Square this evening.
“I couldn’t miss this game. The main difference between this derby and those of the last five years or so is that it’s always been huge for City to get a result, but this time United need a result just as much so in many respects we’re going into this game on a level playing field.
“Past derbies have seen a defeat for United not necessarily mean the end of the world, but they know what could happen if they lose tonight - and what will probably happen next season and in years to come - so they will fear what lies ahead, and with good reason, too.
It takes a lot for Sir Alex Ferguson to admit that City are no longer just noisy neighbours but United’s main rivals for the Premier League, so we must be doing something right
Goat is hoping to return to England soon and admits he would love to come back and work for City someday, but tonight, he’s back just as a fan.
“There are some many battles to be won,” he said. “Micah Richards offers such a powerful outlet from full-back and I see his duel with Patrice Evra as one of the most intriguing aspects of this game.
“I also believe our attack versus their defence will hold the key to who goes on to get the result they want.
“I expect us to dominate for long periods with David Silva and Yaya Toure pivotal figures but Sergio Aguero has been awesome this season and he’s a player you want on your side rather than against you.
“I rate both Aguero and Carlos Tevez very highly because they play the game in the way you want it to be played, with commitment, style and skill. They are always asking questions of the opposition’s defence. They are great to watch and are a real handful.
“I’m just glad they are finally partnering each other in attack – I think both players must have wanted to play alongside each other and it’s been a long time coming, but the last few weeks have proved it’s been well worth the wait. I’m really looking forward to watching this game and also coming home to Manchester. I just hope we get the win we need.”