For fans of the two Premier League clubs in Manchester, the last few years have been some of the most intense and exciting in their respective histories.
Ever since the cash injection that saw Sheikh Mansour take over Man City in 2008, the playing field, uneven for so long, has been levelled. Between then and now, we have seen a City side invest, rise up the table and become the noisy neighbours that United fans have loved to hate.
It can be argued that at one particular point – most likely in 2011 – City replaced United as the premier club in the city. Their league win, achieved in the dying seconds in that game against QPR, truly cemented their status as Premier League big boys, and one trophy wasn’t enough. Last season, under Manuel Pellegrini, City again clinched the title; whilse United, shorn of their greatest asset in Sir Alex Ferguson, were confined to seventh place and the ignominy of a season outside of the Champions League.
For City fans, the last seven years has been a dream. But it now appears as if they have finally woken up.
Following a strong start to the season, City’s form in the last few months has been flaky at best. At worst, it’s been utterly disastrous. The Citizens have gone from second in the League, close behind title rivals Chelsea, to a distant fourth, 12 points behind the Blues despite having played a game more.
And if that wasn’t enough, they now sit four points behind United after what can only be described as a hammering at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. City have lost six of their last eight games, and their defence – so often a strength in the past – conceded four goals to their closest rivals. In short, and all things considered, City are in real turmoil right now.
Should this spell the end for Manuel Pellegrini? Plenty of column inches will be written about whether the Chilean should be axed at the end of this season, but one thing is becoming more and more likely: whether or not he should be, he will be.
Some might argue that Pellegrini actually hasn’t done that badly and that it will always be hard to follow a title-winning season. But for City fans, it is not the fact that he has failed to retain the title that will hurt the most. What will cause the most pain is the fact that United will now almost certainly finish above them. And given that the last seven years have all been about gaining parity with their hometown rivals and earning the right to be mentioned in the same breath as the perennial giants, Pellegrini has presided over a collapse that totally undermines all the work done by the club since that late summer day in 2008 when the money arrived.
Like it or not, this is how modern football works, and unless something truly remarkable happens, City’s 4-2 loss at United will be remembered as the moment when all hope for Pellegrini was finally lost. Had he guided his team to another famous victory over the old enemy, he may have been forgiven. Not anymore, though.