LAZING on Brighton Pier last Saturday in sunshine more akin to the Mediterranean than England in mid-October, news arrived via Twitter that The Stone Roses were set to reform.
I had mixed feelings, the four-piece from Manchester having been the soundtrack to my teenage years and once such an important part of life that I didn’t want to see what remain wonderful memories tainted.
Live, the Roses were never the greatest musically. But they didn’t half put on some great shows, one of my favourite having come just a few hundred yards from where I was sitting on the Pier digesting the news of a possible reunion.
Brighton Centre may be more commonly associated with the Conference season for our politicians but, to me, it will always be where I saw probably my favourite Roses gig – I had temporarily decamped to Hastings at the time, for anyone wondering why I didn’t catch them a bit closer to home in Yorkshire.
Being able to see the Centre from my deckchair meant the reminiscing soon began, not just about the Roses but to a time when the music emanating from ‘Madchester’ via the Mondays, Inspirals, James et al made it feel like the centre of the world.
Fast forward 20 or so years and Manchester is still leading the way, though this time it is not at the top of what my Dad used to call the ‘Hit Parade’ but the football charts.
That will be underlined this weekend when the most eagerly-awaited derby in years takes place at Old Trafford.
City and United are both unbeaten and sit first and second in the Premier League. But it isn’t just results on the field that set apart the two Manchester clubs from the rest of the country.
No, it is the manner in which the two left their rivals behind during the summer transfer window.
City were always expected to splash the cash but what came as a pleasant surprise to the red half of Manchester was how some of the £80m banked for Ronaldo was finally put at Sir Alex Ferguson’s disposal.
United have taken their football to a new level this season, just as Ferguson said they would in the wake of last May’s Champions League masterclass from Barcelona at Wembley.
The signing of Ashley Young has brought vim and vigor to a frontline that also boasts a genuine fox in the box predator-style striker in Javier Hernandez and a striker in Wayne Rooney who is back to his best.
Vital additions have been made in defence, too, with the inspired addition of Chris Smalling last season having been followed by the arrival of Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers. Had Wesley Sneijder also been captured as was mooted earlier in the summer, only a brave man would surely have bet against United retaining their title.
As it is, City have suggested already this term that they too have what it takes to last the pace – not least thanks to Roberto Mancini putting much more emphasis on attack this term.
The Italian’s reward is City netting 27 goals in eight games and being two points clear at the top going into Sunday’s showdown.
The one concern is that Mancini’s squad lacks cover at the heart of the defence but that should not necessarily be a bar to claiming a first title since 1968 providing Julian Lescott and the ever-reliable Vincent Kompany remain fit in front of the Premier League’s best goalkeeper.
As for who will prevail in the scrap between Manchester’s two big guns, it is nigh on impossible to pick a winner on Sunday never mind come May 13.
But what can be taken as read is that this weekend’s derby is going to be special. And with apologies to The Stone Roses, this really is the one we’ve been waiting for.