A derby that has it all

Cape Times - - OPINION -

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.

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