The last time we played City at Old Trafford we lost 6-1. In a bid to make amends for last season’s embarrassment, United have bossed the league this season, going 15 points clear and putting City back in our shadow. All that talk of the blue moon rising and the power shift in Manchester has come to an end, with United reasserting their dominance. Forget goal difference, United have blown all other teams out of the water this season and today we have the opportunity to heap further embarrassment on our local rivals.
Rob Pollard, who runs Typical City, has taken time to discuss where it all went wrong for them this season.
Scott the Red: How would you rate City’s season so far?
Rob Pollard: Mancini said in his press conference prior to the Newcastle game that if we finished second and won the FA Cup he would consider this a good season. I was slaughtered by a few City fans on Twitter for disagreeing. We added £50m of new players to a title winning squad, yet failed to win a single Champions League match and the title race was over in early March. The City fans having a go at me pointed to the injuries we’ve had, but they’ve been no worse than United’s last season yet you managed to push us right to the death. We’ve played well in flashes, but overall we’ve taken a few steps back from last season, so, for me, it’s been a massive failure.
STR: Does Mancini deserve to keep his job after another early Champions League exit and failure to seriously compete with United for the title so far this season?
RP: In my opinion, yes, but whether he will or not is another matter. When I spoke to you last time I mentioned how much I love Mancini – he’s the best manager we’ve had in my lifetime. All the others I’ve seen – and, Joe Royle aside, there’s been a procession of idiots – have just been doing a job and collecting a salary, whereas Mancini lives and breathes the role. It means as much to him as it does to me, and that is something I’ve really enjoyed. United fans probably don’t appreciate that because you have been spoilt by Sir Alex Ferguson, but, believe me, if you’d endured what I have in terms of managers you would love Mancini, too. He also brought me my first silverware and for that I’ll be forever grateful.
I also try and point out to people what a mess he inherited. I know Mark Hughes had spent big but we really were a shambles, and from week one of Mancini’s appointment it had been constant improvement for the first two-and-a-half years of his reign. In terms of this season, Mancini has a get-out-of-jail-free card in the sense that Brian Marwood is largely seen as the man responsible for our dreadful recruitment drive last summer, so he will argue that he deserves another chance to put things right and make us competitive in the big competitions again. An FA Cup win would certainly help his cause.
STR: Who do you think has been the biggest culprit in City’s decline this season?
RP: It’s hard to point fingers in one direction but clearly the summer signings (Nastasic aside) were woeful, and we haven’t scored enough goals. Defensively, we’ve been OK but we just haven’t clicked going forward in the way we did when we won the league. I think it’s been a collective failure rather than something we can pin on one person.
STR: Are you surprised by City’s form this season?
RP: Very. I was annoyed in the summer with the signings we’d made but, even so, I expected a far better campaign than this. The first half of last season saw us play some of the best football in Premier League history, we really were brilliant. We tailed off during the second half of the season but, on the whole, we played some excellent stuff last year and deservedly won the title. It’s been a case of two steps back this time, for sure.
STR: Are you worried about next season?
RP: Not at all. I’m excited. I want to get this campaign out the way with and start afresh. If we make the right signings, we should have a much better season next time.
STR: Which players do you most want to see leave and who would you most like to replace them?
RP: The stars seem to be aligning for big changes this summer, with huge contracts coming to an end, some big players probably leaving, and two new board member who want to stamp their authority on things. We could potentially be freeing up huge space on our wage bill this summer. Kolarov, Kolo Toure, Lescott, Maicon, Sinclair, Nasri, Tevez and Dzeko could all leave (with Santa Cruz and Bridge finally leaving on free transfers), and if that happens we’d have serious room to manoeuvre in the summer window. The hangover from the Hughes-era finally seems to be coming to an end.
If we’re playing absolute fantasy football, any of Cavani, Falcao, Sandro, Pogba, Reus, Gotze or Baines would do me. In fact, there are loads of players out there I’d be interested in, with Cavani topping the list.
STR: Which United player would you most like in your squad?
RP: Last time we spoke I said Scholes, but that was my heart talking. This time I’ll use my head and say Van Persie. I was flabbergasted at thick City and United fans in the summer saying they didn’t want him. His injury record and big wages seemed to be the main justifications for their reluctance to sign him but it was absolutely absurd, and I hope everyone who doubted him now realises that. He can play as a number 9 or a number 10, score with his left foot and right foot from inside and outside the box, and also take set pieces. I mean, what is there not to like? He’s one of the finest forwards the Premier League has ever seen. Obviously, it’s a great regret he didn’t want to join us because if he had this season would have been very different.
STR: How much would you like to see City take a leaf out of United’s book and develop their own players and bring through local lads who actually care about the club?
RP: I think we are. The plans for our new academy are absolutely incredible. We’re spending £100m on creating state-of-the-art facilities and the hope is that it leads to us producing great players of our own, thus making us self-sufficient. That’s the long-term goal, and the level of investment suggests the club is very serious about it.
STR: What are your predictions for the game?