Updated: Wednesday, 1st July 2020 @ 4:56pm

Tuesday Team Talk: Manchester United close league gap on City as both clubs crash out of Champions League

Tuesday Team Talk: Manchester United close league gap on City as both clubs crash out of Champions League

By Jamie Dickenson

Last week was a bleak one for football fans of Manchester City and United, with both clubs falling out of Europe’s elite at the group stage.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini’s sides will now take on the continent on Thursday nights, in the much derided Europa League.

For the Premier League’s two leading sides to have finished in 3rd place in their respective groups will greatly embarrass both the Red Devils and the Citizens.

United produced a poor display away to FC Basel, losing 2-1 on the night to fail to make the Champions League knock-out round for only the third time in 17 years.

The estimated cost of their early European exit is likely to be around £20 million, whilst fans will have to put up with jokes from Londoners about fuzzy television reception watching the Europa League and the club's new signature fragrance: Channel No. 5.

A bad week for Manchester United did not get any better on Friday, when news broke about the knee injury to Nemanja Vidic, ruling him out for the remainder of the season.

This is likely to see Ferguson delve into the market in the January transfer window, although former defender Gary Pallister was quick to deny the squad needed reinforcements in central defence.

"It's very bad news but I don't see Sir Alex rushing out with the chequebook," Pallister told BBC Sport.

"I think they have got enough cover in there with Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling."

Maybe so, but Evans has already proved himself a liability at the highest level, and with Smalling and Jones filling in at right back and central midfield respectively, it wouldn't be surprising to see United bring in another defender in January.

Spirits were lifted at Old Trafford on Saturday as Wolves were dispatched 4-1 in a comfortable affair for United, with Wayne Rooney and Nani both netting braces.

The gap between United and City has been closed to just two points in the Premier League, after City suffered their first defeat against domestic opponents since the Community Shield after going down 2-1 away to Chelsea on Monday night.

A late Frank Lampard penalty won the match for the hosts, and whilst Mancini blamed the referee for his side's loss, the indiscipline of Gael Clichy, sent off on the hour mark, was a more important factor in City's demise at Stamford Bridge.

The league leaders can no longer claim unbeaten status and lose the air of invincibility they had developed in the first 14 games of the campaign.

This defeat, coupled with City's own European exit, shows chinks in the club's armour that for most of this season has resembled a juggernaut, sweeping away every team put in front of them.

City's failure to reach the next phase of the Champions League is understandable considering the strength of the group they were in and their inexperience in the competition.

Even so, for such a richly assembled side to bow out of the competition at this early stage can only reflect badly on the Italian tactician, who is remembered in his native country for his Champions League failings with Inter Milan.

City's owner Sheik Mansour is unlikely to wield the axe after Mancini's latest failed European excursion, however if the club's performances drop over the busy Christmas season, one wonders how much loyalty will be shown from chairman to manager.

Mancini has identified January as the key month for his outfit, highlighting the importance of Yaya Toure to his squad, with the powerful Ivorian set to play in the African Cup of Nations.

"We will probably lose an important man [Yaya Toure] for one month at a crucial moment," he said.

"For this reason I think if we do well in January, and we are top after January, it will be difficult to lose."

“Yaya is an important player for us - we don't have any other players like Yaya."

Whilst cynics could remark that it would not be beyond the realms of possibility for City to dip into the January transfer market and purchase another Yaya Toure, it is not always that simply when trying to replace a world class player.

As Manchester City and United both fall out of the Champions League trap door, into the unloved Europa League competition, the fight for the Premiership title takes on greater significance in the North-West.

The two clubs are set to face each other in the F.A. Cup in January, in what already looks set to be a mouth-watering clash.

For now both teams will be scrambling to take as many points as possible over Christmas, starting this Sunday.

United have the opportunity to lay down the gauntlet, facing Queens Park Rangers away in the lunchtime game, whilst City must negotiate a tricky fixture against Arsenal at home later that afternoon.

Whilst it would seem perilous to place such importance on league matches this early in the season, the competitive nature of the Premier League punishes any team's loss of form, with neither United or City exempt from this.

This weekend kicks off football's frantic festive period, with team's expected to push their resources to the limit by playing 5 games in under 18 days.

It is a test of character and determination for clubs chasing the title, and whilst United are accustomed to fighting for top spot, it will be interesting to see how City cope, in what is their first season gunning for first.

With Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool holding on to their coat tails, the next few weeks are poised to be a fascinating and revealing time for the fortunes of both the Manchester clubs.