The Liverpool game is always United’s biggest of the season but the Manchester derby is always one of the first dates you look out for when the fixtures come out.
For years this game was City’s biggest of the season, whilst they languished around in nothingness, avoiding relegation their only aim for the season, whilst United played for titles and were in cup finals.
Whilst losing on derby day was always pretty gutting, especially when we’ve been on the wrong side of a hefty defeat, it was never the end of the world. There was usually something else much bigger to play for than a one off game. Of course you always want to see your team playing for pride against your local rivals, but you obviously care more about trophies.
This season has been the first where the situations of the two clubs have been reversed. Whilst City’s team has improved immeasurably over the past few years, United have always been there or there abouts, meaning the power shift they referred to was only in their own minds. This year though, with City already having a trophy in the bag and a title to compete for, whilst United don’t even have top four to play for, this really is how it felt to be City.
This doesn’t have to be the beginning of the end though. United are far too much of a global power to go decades without a title. The length of time we have to endure before being champions again will depend on how long it takes for the club to choose the right manager. But for now, for this season at the very least, United are in a dire position and it’s unlikely to get any better this evening.
We go in to the game without our captain, unfairly suspended after being sent off for Daniel Sturridge’s dive a couple of weeks ago. Our top scorer, Robin van Persie, misses the game through injury. We are likely going to play Michael Carrick in defence thanks to an injury crisis. Even with our best team available we would be up against in tonight but it’s hard to have faith in Moyes being able to put out a team that is tactically capable of stopping City.
It’s incredible to learn that United’s home record is the 12th best in the league this season. Hull, Stoke, Norwich, Newcastle and Southampton are amongst the teams who have picked up more points at home than us, and we’re only 2 points better off than relegation favourites Cardiff.
Interestingly enough, United actually have the best record in the league away from home, which shows just how badly the team has screwed up this season. All those ridiculous results at home, against the likes of Newcastle and West Brom, have cost us so badly. If we are capable of picking up so many points away from home, there’s no excuse for dropping so many points at Old Trafford.
11 points away from Arsenal with just 8 games to go means that, despite Moyes’ claims, we’ve got no chance of getting in to the top four.
So tonight, all we have to play for is pride. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, when our backs were against the wall, you fancied us to come up with the goods. When the odds were against us, there was always that belief that we would come back and surprise everyone. He’d pick some mental team that none of the fans would have agreed with and somehow we’d finish the day with three points.
Whilst not wanting to depress you too much, I have none of that belief anymore. Time and again we have been so badly let down and disappointed by these players this season that I genuinely wonder whether they’ve got the bottle to come out and fight. The recent gutless performance against Liverpool only further confirmed my doubts in their mentality.
Still, if City’s turn around wasn’t painful enough, we’ve also got to contemplate the fact that Liverpool could win the league this season. If we beat City it would leave them 3rd in the league, two points behind Liverpool with a game in hand. What an awful season this is. Consoling yourself with a potential defeat to City with the relief they are more likely to win the league than Liverpool. What desperate times we’re in if we’re clinging on to the hope that John Terry will have his hands on the Premier League trophy at the end of the season.
The shit times just make the good times feel all the better. Imagine how fantastic we will feel the next time we win the league, whenever that may be, when we reflect on just how horrendous this season has been. This evening we may well see our team lose for the 7th time in 15 league games. Disgusting.
But I wouldn’t swap being a red for anything. So sit tight, endure the stick, because it won’t be this awful forever.