Following the derby drubbing to Manchester City the mood at Old Trafford is unsurprisingly glum. The stage is all set for Guardiola’s men to truly showcase to the whole world the difference of class between Europe’s best and England’s current champions.
As is so often with European nights at Old Trafford, the footballing universe will look on as Pep’s men lock horns with Moyes’s men. Many will see it simply as a formality for the German champions however a small selection of Manchester United supporters, including me, will hope against hope for an upset. An improbable upset. We will dare to dream, the impossible dream.
As if being humiliated at home by one of our bitter rivals for the second time in two weeks wasn’t enough, David Moyes has managed to heap even more misery on United, by claiming that the club should “aspire to be like City”.Nevermind that United are still the Champions of England, nevermind that United’s history and support dwarf City’s and that players outside England even ignored City’s existence until a couple of years ago, Moyes wants us to look up at them.
It’s a new low in defeatism and shows just how abysmally distant Moyes is from grasping what it means to be the manager of Manchester United, a job which he’s likely to keep for the foreseeable future courtesy of momentous wins against football giants of the calibre of Olympiakos and West Ham.
Ahead of tonight, many Reds – some privately, some less so – had begun trying to find some positives to draw from a possible derby defeat.
The biggest silver lining of all, according to the general consensus, was that a City win would complicate Liverpool’s title bid. But, went the counter argument, surely United will finally turn up for a game where, as far as they were concerned,only pride was at stake?
It had to happen eventually and it has. The roles have swapped and for the first time in almost three decades City arrive at Old Trafford as firm favourites. It’s them chasing the title (after dreams of a Quad…ops Treb…have been stupendously dashed) and it’s United who have got nothing else to play for if not local pride and, small time though it might sound, the chance of scuppering City’s title bid.
The caveat to that, of course, is that beating City tonight might hand Liverpool a significant boost in the title race and if it came down to City and Liverpool, I think we both know who we’d rather see lifting the trophy – spoiler alert: they don’t play in red and they don’t revel in self-pitying – but it’s hard to fathom the prospect of going into a derby without wanting to win it.
Eight months ago Wayne Rooney looked set to leave Old Trafford behind and join Chelsea. On Saturday he captained the team – not for the first time this season – scored one the best goals the club has ever seen and moved up to third in United’s all-time goalscoring list.
In what has been a dismal inaugural campaign, David Moyes’ handling of Rooney has been one of the few positives of United’s season and Saturday confirmed how pivotal the striker is to United’s future, particularly when he enjoys this sort of form, something that had somewhat gone missing over the last 18 months.
Reports in today’s newspapers suggest that Manchester United have agreed a deal worth £37m for Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho, which will bring the defensive midfielder to Old Trafford after the World Cup, as David Moyes looks to bolster his options in the middle of the park.
United have scouted Carvalho intensely this season and the 21-year-old was also on the radar of a host of other top European clubs – including Chelsea and Real Madrid – but the Mirror suggests that Ed Woodward has managed to get his man this time around, after failing spectacularly with bids for Ander Herrera and Cesc Fabregas last season.
What a strange season this has been for United. On Sunday they were humiliated on their own turf by Liverpool, on Wednesday they produced an utterly improbable and unexpected comeback in the Champions League,thanks to hat-trick from Robin Van Persie, who managed to dissipate reports describing him as unhappy, before picking up an injury that could sideline him for the rest of the season
Today they traveled to a traditionally tricky ground for them with a central midfielder filling in at centre-back and were gifted three points thanks to two goals from a player who was on the verge of leaving the club seven months ago, while he now ranks third among the club’s all-time goalscorers.
There’s no rest for the wicked and so, just three days after producing the sort of performance we had been demanding since August, United turn their attention back to the Premier League, desperately hoping to build on Wednesday’s positives to arrive to Tuesday’s night derby in slightly more buoyant mood than they’ve been all season.
United have made their life complicated all season and Saturday’s trip to East London is far from being an appealing prospect, given the Reds’ seemingly unwavering determination to make things difficult for themselves whenever they face West Ham at Upton Park, where West Ham have won their last three league games and where United have conceded at least twice in their last four visits.