Debate: Ignore the hype – there’s nothing riding on this Manchester derby except City’s pride

Comment by Reece Lawrence

Monday’s Manchester derby is due to be another heated encounter between two clubs full of contempt for each other.

However, with United cantering to a 20th championship triumph and City increasingly diverting their focus to potential FA Cup success, the upcoming league match has an air of inertia about it.

When then City manager Mark Hughes signed Robinho on that now legendary transfer deadline day in 2008, it was the spark to a fire that would affect how all future derbies are viewed.

Ignoring the uninspiring Thaksin Shinawatra phase, Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi investment group broke Manchester City’s quiet submission, which the Blues have been under for so many years.

Like Chelsea before them, they slowly began to prepare the club for an assault on world football.

The phrase ‘shift of power’ grew louder among City fans, and the matches against their red-tinted rivals became more significant.

It was no longer the case that the Citizens saw the derby as a bigger deal than the Red Devils did.

Yet many United fans will arguably see Monday’s challenge as merely another obstacle towards the ten points they need to ensure the gold Premier League logo is on their team’s sleeves next season.

It is past the point where United can claim to feel annoyed that their rivals – who for so long languished in mediocrity – are now competing in financial and footballing terms.

Sir Alex Ferguson himself sat up and took notice, coining them ‘noisy neighbours’, but as Monday approaches, he will feel the noise is little more than a whimper as far as the league challenge is concerned.

This is surprising considering where the teams were last year – much closer in the league with United still smarting from the 6-1 home defeat, and so it is likely Monday’s game will be a one-off due to the circumstances.

It is the first home league game since that day now etched in City history, and while Roberto Mancini believes it ‘impossible’ it will be repeated again, Ferguson will be aware of all of City’s dangers.

Yaya Toure makes for a top-class midfield, and having just signed a new contract, will be able to solely focus on the task at hand, aided by a talented squad.

Ferguson will have his own ideas, and he will hope they revolve around unleashing fit-again Wayne Rooney to reignite a team that missed him in Monday’s limp cup tie against Chelsea.

The idea that City essentially ‘won the lottery’ by being taken over by a billionaire is still an issue for debate, but the fact is since then City have become credible competitors – an FA Cup, a league title and a community shield after 35 years of a dusty trophy cabinet says as much.

Abu Dhabi took over almost five years ago now and so a begrudgingly pragmatic attitude should be taken by fans, especially since City’s wealth presented a new challenge to the ever-hungry Ferguson.

When Chelsea were revolutionised by Abramovich’s roubles and Jose Mourinho’s team subsequently dominated the league for two years, Ferguson’s response was to build a team that won the title three years on the bounce.

City’s apparent regression will not become a lasting trend – there is a reason no team has won first 25 out of 30 games – it is extremely difficult – and City’s owners are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Therefore, expectations will be of a closer title race next season, and in the future it is a safe bet that City will remain in the ring with United as the two aim to knock the wind out of each other.

Picture courtesy of OldElPaso, via Wiki Commons, with thanks

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