It may become the new “Clasico” in the next few years. That is the scale of this game at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow evening.
Why? Quite simply, if it all goes “pear-shaped” for Mancini and his cashmere scarf, then he may be shown the revolving door and Alex Ferguson and his tiresome bunch will go on to win the title and remain the dominant force.
For anyone that has “United Fatigue” the way we all used to be sick and tired of Liverpool sweeping up on an annual basis, City must win.
I am not a City fan, but like many others, I am getting a bit bored with United. There is much to admire in what they have achieved, but monopolies are never healthy. I recall the way we used to criticize continental Europe for the countless national leagues that seemed to be one-horse races. Like Spain and Scotland. In the 1960s and 1970s, anyone could win the league in England – witness, Burnley, Ipswich, Derby and Forest. But now, we are no better.
Manchester City are the latest club to incur the wrath of the public because they are “buying it”. That’s all very well, but in most cases, clubs have bought it – the difference is that today, the stakes and sums are that much bigger. Why, for example, were the Liverpool clubs that much better than the rest? Everton, for example, were renowned big spenders in the 1960s because they were propped up by the Pools. The Moores family. Tottenham were another club that made a habit of big signings on a regular basis. Why? They were backed.
United benefitted hugely from going public and since then, they have rarely looked back. And when they were taken over, perhaps a consequence of going public, their fans cried and sneered at the new owners. But the very thing that helped give them the springboard to national domination since 1992 was the same thing that made them vulnerable to takeover. Get used to it. And don’t tell me that a club that has 70,000 people watching them is part of a level playing field that includes clubs who can barely muster up 25,000!
In order to compete with United, clubs have sought backers – Chelsea and City are the most extreme examples but there are countless others. In some ways, benchmarking themselves against United has thrown clubs into the arms of wealthy backers with big egos.
City have created a genuine “team of all talents”. Unlike Chelsea’s recent golden spell, where Mourinho took promising players and made them successful, City have bought the crème de la crème. With the exception of that fool Mario Balotelli, their players are class.
So what will happen? If United avoid defeat, the title is theirs. City must win and they know it is their last chance. It may also be Mancini’s final roll of the dice. If he allows a team as expensive and star-studded as his to blow all that early season flourish, he may be looking for a new colour scarf in the summer.