MANCHESTER derbies are not quickfire events.
Uwe Rosler remembers the build-up to them lasting for weeks and involving all sorts of quirks. In his days as a Manchester City striker, T-shirts were printed in Rosler’s name recalling the Luftwaffe bomb which dropped on Old Trafford in 1941.
Derbies are games to win and never to lose; stressful occasions for footballers who don’t thrive on tension and expectancy. Rosler saw them as the “highlights” of his year which “got more out of me than playing against normal opponents.” Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday afternoon is his cup of tea.
“For me it was very enjoyable,” he said, recalling his time in Manchester in the 1990s. “There was a special build up, not only over one week but a special build-up over many weeks. People were flying in for that from all over the world. Family came over.
“To be honest when I was a player there were lots of distractions. It was difficult to prepare. ‘By the way, I have a game!’ But I loved every minute of it. For me it was always the highlight of the year.
“At that point you were measuring yourself against possibly the strongest team in the country and against the best players in the country. I was driven by that. I didn’t see it as a disturbance or a negative factor. It got more out of me than playing against normal opponents.”
Saturday’s game between Leeds United and Wednesday is on a different scale. Given the choice, Leeds would opt to rekindle a rivalry with the club in red who Rosler and Manchester City fought bitterly twice a year. Will Elland Road feel like a derby in the same way? “Yes,” Rosler said. “I’m driving that. I got a taste for the atmosphere against Burnley (on the first day of the season) and I want that buzz back.”
As a club, Sheffield Wednesday are now as cosmopolitan as Leeds. They had a Thai owner and a Portuguese head coach, Carlos Carvalhal. Carvalhal looked abroad for several of his signings this summer, including striker Marco Matias and ex-Marseille winger Modou Sougou.
United’s camp was once loaded with players and staff new to English football but the majority have acclimatised in the past 12 months. Every player signed by Leeds since May was either based in the UK or, like Sol Bamba, had played here before. Rosler hopes the atmosphere today and the importance of the result will resonate more with his players’ than those under Carvalhal.
“We have to play it like a Yorkshire derby,” Rosler said. “We have to play it that way.
“They have a new team, they have players who haven’t played in a Yorkshire derby before so we have to take the game to them. That starts with us.
“I don’t think it will be an absolutely manic, high-tempo game because of the schedule we’ve been through but we have to take the initiative with the ball and without the ball.
“We want to be on the front foot but we can’t blow out after 60, 70 minutes. We have to get one more goal than them. That’s all that’s required to be honest.”
United’s league form in the first fortnight can be seen in two ways: undefeated in three games or winless after three. What everyone including Rosler can agree on is that Leeds have been close enough to touch a victory twice, pegged back late on by Burnley two weeks ago and denied by a late onslaught from Bristol City in a 2-2 draw at Ashton Gate. Rosler, who took the head coach’s job in May, has been annoyed by the spate of games thrust on Leeds in the past fortnight, including another early kick-off this weekend.
“He has also come to realise that United are a scalp; a club who other teams love to beat even if the sense of rivalry or antipathy is not reciprocated from Elland Road.
“We have to live with this,” Rosler said. “We want to play and work for this great football club so that’s what we have to live with.
“We have to maintain spirit and morale and eventually we have to win. Hopefully we can do that against Sheffield Wednesday. That would be a fantastic end to a busy period.
“This period we’re going through now – understand we had Burnley, a Premier League team, in a very emotional game for the first game of the season. Then a Yorkshire derby against Doncaster (in the League Cup). Also Bristol City away, a full house and a newly promoted team. That was emotional again with how it ended.
“So with how my players have performed yes, I’m happy. As a coach you have to see the bigger picture. That’s what I always try to do. Sometimes you get carried away by not playing well and winning 1-0. The point against Bristol City will turn out to be a very good one when we win the game (against Sheffield Wednesday).”