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Butt backs Rio Ferdinand to silence critics and put Mario Balotelli in his place following their feud at Wembley and tips United to edge past local rivals to regain top spot

EXCLUSIVE
By Rob Stewart

Former Manchester United midfielder Nicky Butt knows exactly what it takes to win or lose local bragging rights when the Red Devils face Manchester City thanks to 12 glorious years at Old Trafford.

Butt helped United win the Premier League title six times but now the threat to the champions’ dominance from their local rivals, who are currently setting the pace at the top of the table, is greater than ever.

Despite City’s rise, Butt is still expecting his old club to have just enough to silence their noisy neighbours and chalk up a 20th successive home victory in the Premier League and retain their status as top dogs.

Here the former England international gives Goal.com the lowdown on where he thinks bragging rights will be won and lost at Old Trafford.

Rio Ferdinand v Mario Balotelli


"This is the ideal stage for Rio Ferdinand to silence his critics. When you are a top player like Rio is you are always going to get people who can’t wait to write you off but he’s still got what it takes to carry on at the highest level for a good few years yet if he can stay injury-free.

"He’s the best central defender of the Premier League era. He’s a phenomenal player – the most complete centre-half I have ever seen. He is fast, he is strong, he is good in possession and when he’s defending he never goes to ground. He is strong in every aspect of his game and he’s mentally tough as well. He has had a few injuries and people have seized on that to give him stick because he’s not expected to put a foot wrong but he will take it on the chin.

"I bet he will show that he can still do the business at the highest level against City because he is a big-game player. He had a spat with Mario Balotelli last season after the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and that will be bubbling away at the back of his mind and give him an extra incentive to prove his doubters wrong which top players like him do. I’d back him to show that the sceptics are talking nonsense.

"Rio and Nemanja Vidic have been around the block a fair few times and their experience in the middle of the defence will also be vital and that will help the goalkeeper David de Gea who will be sampling the derby for the first time."

Darren Fletcher vs Samir Nasri


"I know people might accuse me of being biased because I used to be a midfielder but most games are won and lost in midfield and this one will be no exception because whoever comes out on top in this area will probably go home happy.

"Nasri is excellent at linking up the play and it will be up to Darren Fletcher to stop him getting into his stride. Fletcher is very important because he enjoys getting about the pitch and winning the ball and letting the flair players do the rest and start creating things.

"He is a vital cog in the United team but he must be careful not to go too far forward and stay in that little gap in front of the back four to halt Nasri and cut off the supply lines to Sergio Aguero.

"Don’t get me wrong I think Nasri is a fantastic player but if Fletcher makes sure he doesn’t get behind him so he ends up looking over his shoulder and keeps an eye on him, then he and United should be fine.

"This will be Nasri’s first Manchester derby but he played against United plenty of times when he was at Arsenal and I even remember him scoring the winning goal against us a couple of years ago, so everyone will know how much of a threat he poses."

Anderson v David Silva


"David Silva seems to be here, there and everywhere for Manchester City these days and the way David Moyes had Jack Rodwell doing a man-to-man marking job on him when they played Everton showed just how important he has become to City.

"Silva seems to be at the centre of most of City’s attacking moves and he’s great to watch because he’s got a beautiful touch, he can spot a pass a mile off and he’s got an eye for goal and he seems to have developed a good understanding with his forwards such as Sergio Aguero.

"He seems to glide all over the place and links up play really nicely but he won’t find things easy against Anderson because he’s now showing that Sir Alex Ferguson was right to have put so much faith in him.

"Anderson has got everything you need to be a midfielder in that he’s got a great left foot, good with the ball and he’s got loads of energy plus he’s solid defensively and gets a goal every now and again.

"He’s a fine all-round midfielder rather than a holding player and he will to make sure that if he can’t stop the ball getting to Silva when City are on the front foot that he closes him down so quickly that he can’t get his head up and feed Aguero."

Ashley Young vs Micah Richards


"Both City full-backs will be in for a busy afternoon with Nani facing Gael Clichy down the United right wing and Ashley Young up against Micah Richards on the other wing and it is the latter battle that I think most fans will find most intriguing.

"Micah seems to have been around the scene for ages now even though he’s only 23 years old but he’s already a match for most wingers when he comes to defending and also a handful when he gets forward but he will be up against a player who seems cut out for Old Trafford.

"Ashley needs to make sure that he plays high up the pitch to keep Micah pinned back and stop him making his surging runs forward because when he gets going he takes some stopping and clearly enjoys the role of being an over-lapping full-back.

"Ashley is great at cutting inside his full-back and getting in those trademark curling shots and bending in crosses to the far post that will either ask for someone to glance in or end up inside the post.

"That way to goal will trouble Micah because it will mean he is constantly targeting his weaker side so he will need help from his centre-halves and that could open things up for Wayne Rooney and Chicharito."

Wayne Rooney vs Vincent Kompany


"Vincent Kompany is a top, top player and he’s doing a great job as captain of City and he is rightly getting lots of plaudits for the way he is playing because he is performing as well if not better than any other centre-half in the country. Plus it is nice that a player from overseas has come to Manchester and not started moaning about the place which is great.

"Don’t get me wrong, I rate him very highly but even if he is at the top of his game he will find it tough going against Wayne Rooney because any player in the world in any era would struggle to contain him when he is on form.

"He reminded everyone last season that he is capable of the spectacular with that bicycle kick against City but his all-round game is brilliant whether it is hounding defenders, finding space, delivering an incisive pass or just plain old finishing inside the six-yard box.

"Wayne hasn’t had the best of months with that Euro 2012 suspension he picked up while on England duty but he scored a couple in midweek in the Champions League and when he is back on home territory he will be raring to go again.

"I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if he wins the game for United and I’m going for them to edge it 3-2 with another late winner."

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