Peter Barnes expects Manchester United to go all out for victory in Wednesday’s crunch derby with Manchester City regardless of the awkward dilemma facing fans.
United could play a pivotal role in the tense Premier League title race between City and Liverpool as they host their neighbours at Old Trafford.
United fans know that victory – or even just a draw – would hand their most hated rivals Liverpool the initiative in the battle for the top.
Yet giving any ground in a derby is usually more than any United supporter can stomach. In addition to that United need points in their own battle for a top-four spot and they also want to restore some pride after Sunday’s embarrassing 4-0 defeat at Everton.
Former England winger Barnes, one of a select few players to have represented both clubs in a Manchester derby, told Press Association Sport: “The United fans I speak to do want City to win the title rather than Liverpool but it’s a difficult one.
“They will be happy if they beat City – but then again they won’t because they don’t want Liverpool to win the title!
“But United have still got a chance to get into the top four and they’ll go out to try to win it, they’re professional players.
“In the back of their minds they’ll know if they win Liverpool could win the title, so it is a difficult one, but United will want to finish the season on a high. It is an important game for both teams.”
Barnes, 61, is a hero at City after two spells with the club from 1974-79 and 1987-88. However, he is also well qualified to pass judgement on United after a stint at Old Trafford under Ron Atkinson in the mid-1980s.
On this occasion, he expects the Blues will emerge victorious.
Barnes said: “It is one of the biggest games of the season and there is a lot at stake this time, for City certainly.
“They’ll want to keep the winning run going. They can’t afford to drop points.
“I think if City play to their best and keep possession of the ball I can see them winning comfortably. They are the team in form.”
United go into the game on the back of a dismal run that has seen them lose six of their last eight games in all competitions. The initial bounce following the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager has now worn off.
Barnes said: “They are not playing with confidence and since Ole signed his new contract they have not won many. I think he has got a big job to do in the summer.
“But while you can discard other games – not the derby. It is one players from both sides will be up for.”
City, under the guidance of the inspirational Pep Guardiola, have won their last 10 league games and were still competing for the quadruple until a week ago.
Barnes said: “It has been great, refreshing. It comes down to the coach and the way he plays total football. They have some exciting players and a big squad.
“This is the business end of the season and they could become the first team to win the three domestic trophies, which is really good.”
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