A derby that has it all
BOY, OH boy, how things have changed for Manchester City and Manchester United as they prepare for Sunday’s big derby.
Hit the rewind button and just the other day Manchester United were, in the words of the silver-tongued Frank Sinatra, “top of the list, king of the hill, a number one”. Backtrack a over a decade ago, and Jose Mourinho was the “Special One”, the manager who could do no wrong; wherever he went titles and trophies were sure to follow.
But it was only a matter of time before change made an appearance. United, under Mourinho, are struggling in the English Premiership – Manchester City are the new top dogs of the city. And so, too, as the Portuguese manager’s star continues to wane, it’s abundantly clear there is a new sheriff in the managerial town: City’s Pep Guardiola.
When United were in their pomp, under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, they were the team to fear. They played football with confidence, and with defensive nous and attacking purpose.
They don’t have it any more. In fact, City now have the flair, the brashness, and a host of creative footballers. They have the team aura that scares the living daylights out of opposition players and managers; and, importantly, City have Guardiola, a football thinker who has them playing with great fluency and dominance in the way United once did under Ferguson.
It’s a classic role reversal. It’s the era of change in Manchester. But one thing to remember is that football derbies tend not to follow any script, no matter if the game is in Soweto or in Manchester. Pride is a big factor in derbies, and teams tend to lift their game. So you can be sure that Pep will be pinning this message in capital letters on the dressing room door: “Don’t read too much into United’s league struggles.”
It should be a wonderful game. Enjoy the football.