Pellegrini ready to open old wounds Experienced City manager prepared for derby mayhem New chapter has previous between men in charge By Mark Ogden Manuel Pellegrini has been able to wander freely through Albert Square and down Deansgate this week, sharing jokes with blues and reds, as he prepares for his first Manchester derby.
There have been no dashes into the back of taxis to escape angry fans or efforts to avoid the enemy. It has been welcome to Manchester in every sense.
But it has been a novel experience for the Chilean, different to the tension he was used to in Buenos Aires when managing River Plate against Boca Juniors in the superclasico.
Yet having endured the madness of South America's biggest derby and a season in the midst of Real Madrid-Barcelona rivalry, the Manchester City manager insists he is fully prepared for Mancunian mayhem at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow (Sunday).
"I don't need to be here to know how important the Manchester derby is, but working here and living here, I know it is a special game," Pellegrini said. "I know it is special.
You can feel it in the streets. But football in Europe is different. It is a very important game, but some things that happen in South America don't happen here.
"River Plate v Boca Juniors is a very different rivalry. It is crazy in Argentina - not only on the pitch during 90 minutes, it's the same for the whole week, the whole month.
We will have important games with United, we will try to beat them, but compared to that one in Argentina it will be easier, I think so. If you lose [in Argentina], you can't go out of your home for the week.
You have to hide. It's difficult to come out of the stadium or the training ground for at least two or three hours afterwards.
"Real Madrid-Barcelona is a very important derby, just like River-Boca, but when you live in the city every day, you feel how important this derby is for the city of Manchester, for both sides. The last week, wherever you go, all the people are talking about the derby. I know it is a very important derby and the most important match for this club."
Not since Matt Busby's United tackled Jock Thomson's City in September 1947 have the two clubs locked horns with both managers experiencing their first Manchester derby, but while Pellegrini is the newcomer in the blue corner, David Moyes must learn how to grapple with the club Sir Alex Ferguson once described as "noisy neighbours".
Moyes has had his brushes with City in the past, proving to be a thorn in their side while Everton manager - winning nine of their last 12 league meetings - but the Scot insists he is no derby rookie having tasted Old Firm rivalry with Celtic.
"I have experienced derby games in Glasgow and Merseyside, so I know that every big derby in any city you go to is important to whatever team you support," Moyes said.
"I understand how important it is to Manchester United supporters. Everyone realises the passion that is there between the supporters and the commitment which the players are required to show in the game." The Mancunian landscape ahead of the 166th derby has changed beyond recognition with Ferguson no longer patrolling the touchline.
Ferguson took charge of 46 derbies as United manager, becoming a lightning rod of emotion on both sides of the divide and, during his four-year spell in charge of City, Roberto Mancini also brought an extra edge in vowing, and succeeding, to tear down the mocking '35 years' banner at Old Trafford which ridiculed the trophy drought endured by the blue half of the city. With Ferguson gone, Pellegrini admits Moyes will be under pressure to live up to the standards set by his predecessor.
"I know Sir Alex Ferguson is not here for the first time, but that is their problem, not my problem," Pellegrini said.
"For me, the reality is now we have to play against Manchester United with David Moyes. Other things aren't important. But it is impossible not to be under a lot of pressure, not replacing Ferguson, but managing Manchester United.
"At big teams, you are always under big pressure, but that is a good way to work because you know what you have to do. I know David Moyes had good results against City when he managed Everton, but I also had a good record against Everton [with Villarreal] when he was a manager."
By recalling Villarreal's Champions League qualifying round victory over Everton in August 2005, Pellegrini poured salt in what remains an open wound for Moyes.
"Villarreal had a really good team," Moyes said.
"But we were disappointed not to go through and it did rankle because we thought we scored a legitimate goal in extra time and it didn't count."
A new chapter in Manchester rivalry starts between the two men tomorrow, but there is clearly already history between the pair.