The reactions from the blue and red halves of Manchester will be very interesting today in this post- Champions League reality.
2011 was supposed to be the year when everything got better for Manchester City with the arrival of even more ridiculously overpaid and extremely talented players. Roberto Mancini would now have no more excuses as he has the necessary players and the support of the club owners.
2011 was supposed to be more of the same for Manchester United with the arrival of some bright and energetic English talent. Combined with the managerial cunning of Alex Ferguson, the club would try to emulate the prior season’s high by reaching the Champions League final, and winning it this time.
So which Manchester team will feel more aggrieved this morning?
Manchester City has spent over a grillion British pounds over the past couple of seasons to bring in the likes of Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Mario Balotelli, Edwin Dzeko and the brothers Toure amongst many others.
Manchester City’s domestic league form has been imperious (to date) with the team yet to be defeated and racking up an impressive tally in the goals for column. However, they were unable to translate this domestic form into the Champions League where they came up against German giants Bayern Munich, Spanish club Villareal and Italian team Napoli, also virgins to the competition. Although, it was seen as a tough draw Manchester City were expected to qualify along with Bayern Munich.
Mancini will attempt to be philosophical and try to put a brave face on the non-qualification with phrases like “our lives are not over” and how the Europa League will be “an important trophy for Manchester City”. The harsh reality is that having aimed to buy a BMW 7 series, the club is now effectively saying that having the Kia Sorrento instead is not a bad thing. Seriously, the Kia is a great car with some awesome features, you know…..
Manchester United started the pre-season brightly with an impressive come-from-behind victory against Manchester City in the Charity Shield game. The team played well and combined some lovely movement and quick passing that really caught the eye. All will-he-won’t-he talk about Wesley Sneijder was quickly forgotten as Tom Cleverly made a claim for one of the central midfield berths. The experience of Giggs, Fletcher and Andersen would hopefully be enough to carry Manchester United forward.
Since that game though, United have battled in a very literal sense. Injuries have played their part with key players flitting in and out of the squad. However, there appear to be two key issues plaguing the red half of Manchester at the moment.
The first is a defensive fragility, especially noticeable in the European games – with Rio Ferdinand operating more as a squad player and seemingly more prone to lapses in concentration, combined with the absence of Vidic’s leadership and organisation, United always seem in danger of conceding a goal.
The second appears to be a lack of hunger and desire. The United teams are famous for their never-say-die attitude and this overwhelming belief that “United don’t lose, they just run out of time”. In large segments of the match against Basel, this current team appeared to be missing this vital ingredient.
Looking ahead, the pressure only increases for Roberto Mancini and Manchester City as domestic glory must surely be the only way to consider the season a success. For Manchester United, it remains to be seen how the team recovers from this temporary setback.
Who is your money on?