Manchester is a city in crisis. Manchester United have crashed out of the Champions League and now failed to get past historic rivals Liverpool in the Europa Leauge. Manchester City, who at one point looked like title favorites have faltered, badly, in the league. They run the risk of missing out on next year’s Champions League if they don’t right the ship. Pep Guardiola might want to start scouting some Europa League competition soon.
Yet this Sunday the two teams will meet, in another edition of the Manchester Derby. The players and coaches will all say the same things, that this game is all about bragging rights, and the fans will get into the derby atmosphere and everyone will have a good time. But for each team there is something so important on the line, but does one team have more to worry about? Does either team need this more than the other?
Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson left the dugout at Old Trafford, United have been a shell of the team they once were. They haven’t been in the Champions League knockout stages for the last two seasons. If they stay outside the top-four it will be twice in three seasons they haven’t even made it to Europe’s premier club competition. That’s hardly good enough for a team whose fans display a banner that reads “European capital of trophies.”
United’s noisy neighbors, City, are in a different kind of crisis. They have a better squad than United does, but they are sorely underperforming, and they are led by a lame duck coach that if internet memes are to be believed (they’re not), has already completely stopped caring.
Usually, the biggest benefit of qualifying for the Champions League is the money, but both of these teams are flush with cash. City’s owner has deep pockets and United get to enjoy the world’s biggest shirt sponsorship deal with Adidas. Not to mention, the Premier League’s massive TV deal. Money is no issue for these two.
So the question, who needs to win this match more is all about prestige. For this reason, Manchester United will need these three points much more than City.
That isn’t to say that this game isn’t hugely important for City, but it seems as though United are teetering dangerously close to falling back like Liverpool from a few years ago. City still has a great team, and next year they should take a step forward with Pep Guardiola. Even though it would seem strange to see Guardiola managing in the Europa League, he should have no trouble getting his side back into the top-four.
Guardiola is a coach many players want to play for. So it seems unlikely that City will have trouble bringing in impact players next year. Missing out on the top four will be embarrassing but it’s not a long-term disaster.
For United, the issue of missing out on the Champions League brings uncertainty. Uncertainty about the manager next season, uncertainty in the squad and uncertainty in the transfer market.
Louis Van Gaal seems destined to be given his marching orders come the end of the season, and finding a high profile coach could be difficult. But if we’re being honest they’ll probably hire Jose Mourinho, which of course brings other issues.
Manchester United's next four games:
Manchester City (A)
West Ham (A)
Tough run. pic.twitter.com/a1irzlT4ja
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 17, 2016
Losing to City, and possibly missing out on the Champions League brings questions about the squad as well, and who do they bring in to improve. Van Gaal has relied heavily on youth this year, but that hasn’t gotten them where they want to go. Missing out on the top-four also means that David De Gea, United’s best player, could be tempted with a move to Madrid again.
United tried last summer to buy superstar players, like Thomas Müller and Neymar depending on who you believe. That isn’t United right now. They can’t attract the big names that they once could and that won’t change if they can’t get into the one competition all of Europe’s best players want to compete in.
City wouldn’t have these problems like United, simply because of the Guardiola factor. But these still need to win this game, but maybe it’s not as desperate as it is for United.
Sunday we’ll find out gets to take home those bragging rights. Or maybe it will just end as a draw, and West Ham will go into the top-four.