Beating Donny in recent years has become as difficult as scoring goals over recent weeks. As a result, the chances of us getting something out of the Boxing Day derby look slim. We may have a Wiseman and a King but Donny will have to also come bearing gifts for us to fly in the face of current form and recent history.
We haven’t beaten Rovers since 2006. We’ve lost seven of the nine games since. And in those nine games we’ve conceded 28 goals – that’s 3.1 a game! – and scored just 13. The last four visits to the Doncaster has seen us ship 5, 4, 3 and 4 goals respectively.
Of course, it’s dangerous to draw too many conclusions from the past. But the present doesn’t bode well for United either. Four points taken from the 18 available from the last six league games and just four goals scored. Mark Robins talks of strengthening his attacking options in January, but in the meantime his personal Christmas quiz will be to pick this week’s attacking permutation from the usual suspects.
Doncaster, on the other hand, have shown what can happen when you do change the manager, shaking off a poor start under Paul Dickov – two wins in their first 11 league games which left them 20th in the table just above the relegation zone – and improving to 15th under Darren Ferguson, just one point ahead of United. Last week they scored three at league leaders Burton. The fact they also conceded three may offer us some hope, but only some.
We can also bank on the usual fantastic away support, plus Robins has Ferguson’s endorsement. “I think he’s got a really good squad,” the Doncaster manager said yesterday. However, he then added ominously: “We look a real threat and we’re getting goals.”
Ferguson and Robins were team-mates at Manchester United, while Ferguson and Ned Kelly played together at Wolves. However, Sir Alex’s son won’t be feeling friendly on Saturday and United are going to have to produce something out of the ordinary to prevent this result turning into another Christmas turkey.