Of course, we've already beaten the champions this season at home, in what remains the greatest single display of the Mancini system and approach. But this means more in so many ways. I'm not entirely certain that I'd take three points against Chelsea at home and none against United rather than, say, draws against both. I'd certainly have to think hard about it.
What makes this game even more terrifying is that my traditional attempts to play the low-expectation game are getting less and less credible every year. This isn't like the days when Roy Keane, David Beckham and Paul Scholes lined up against Gerard Wiekens,
Jim Jeff* Whitley and Ian Bishop, and it's wrong to pretend that it is. As aggregates of player abilities, there is not much between the two squads. On paper, at home, we are not distant outsiders, much as it might comfort me to pretend that we are.
If we lose tonight, it will represent points dropped in a way that has never really been true of derbies before. So what do I expect? A tight game, certainly. I don't think United would be too disappointed with a point. Providing we defend as we can (joint second best defence in the Premier League, even with the recent blip) there's no reason we can't keep a clean sheet.
So I'm going to take the coward's way out and predict 0-0, or at least 0-0 after ninety minutes. Exactly what goes on in the murkiest recesses of Fergie time is anyone's guess.
*Why of course, Gwil. J.