Red Devils Reign Supreme, Unless…
After the amazing 4-0 obliteration of a hapless Aston Villa side under the winter sky of Manchester, once again the Manchester City roller coaster is going up. Media, pundits, and fans alike have once again made an extreme U-Turn after labeling the team as a team full of money-minded mercenaries heading to chaos, once again they have labeled Manchester City as a genuine title contenders. There is no way to blame the general public for the seemingly hypocritical assessments of the team as results create the talks not the other way round. However, even though Manchester City were top of the Premier League table for just minutes, they were almost immediately overtaken again by their bitter rivals Manchester United after they have extended their unbeaten run by securing a 1-1 draw against Birmingham City. The Red half of Manchester is precisely the reason why Manchester City is unlikely to win the title despite the re-ignited talks of a genuine title challenge. No matter how many 4-0 or even 10-0 victories they accumulate over the season, they will not win the title unless they are able to totally banish Manchester United, on and off the field. The following will be the reasons why Manchester United will always reign supreme in Manchester unless Manchester City could muster something really meaningful from now onwards until the end of the season.
Firstly, the Red Devil will always cling on the backs of Manchester City. Prior to the Blue Moon revolution, Man City were just a mid-table side and sometimes flirting with relegation, and it was a given that their much more illustrious neighbors hogging all the limelight. Even after Man City have been elevated to no less than the richest football club in the world, they are still somehow always below Manchester United, as evident on how Man Utd usurped Man City at the top of the table almost immediately, and furthermore, Man Utd have two games in hand, which against small teams like Blackburn and Wolves, they are sure to score big wins especially through Berbatov’s newfound scoring boots. This shows how Man City are really struggling to get the Red Devil off their backs, but seems that so far, their efforts have been in vain. Unless Man City could somehow muster a genuine and meaningful effort to outshine their bitter rivals in any way they could, such as winning the FA Cup and/or the League Cup, (Things that they have failed as well), they will not be able to win the real big thing if the status quo remains that Manchester United is the premier team of Manchester.
Secondly, the showdown with the Red Devils themselves. Actually, earlier in this decade, again prior to the Blue Moon revolution, Manchester City had been securing credible results in matches against Manchester United, even accruing meaningful victories even at Old Trafford. (One of them, the last Manchester Derby at Maine Road stadium in 2002 in which the Citizens ran out 3-1 winners was the very reason why I started supporting Manchester City back then until today). However, since the Abu Dhabi era, Manchester City have continued to fall way short of expectations when they are up against Man Utd. From the painful and controversial 4-3 defeat at Old Trafford, from the defeat in the Carling Cup Semi-Final, from another painful 1-0 defeat also last season, and this season’s boring 0-0 draw. In any case, Man City have failed to banish Man Utd during their encounters recently, and as we know it, any bad results/performances against Man Utd can be really fatal.
To refresh our memories, we should again take a look at Arsenal. We must remember how in 2004, Arsenal were cruising on their 49 match unbeaten run, and Manchester United was next. They were set to score their 50th match unbeaten against Man Utd, but then they were unceremoniously defeated, and to cut the story short, after that defeat, 5 years and counting, zero trophies accrued by the Gunners. This is a perfect example of how a bad result against Man Utd could be very catastrophic for the defeated teams. This is also true for Man City, as a pattern has been formed here. Every time they are about to meet Man Utd, Man City are on a great run in all competitions. But then, a bad result against Man Utd is followed with a very bad run such that talks about the sacking of the manager surface. Then, Man City would recover, start winning again, then the next encounter against Man Utd, bad result, and so on. Same as before, unless this cycle is broken, talks about title are all nothing more than pipe dreams.
Thirdly, even off the pitch, Man City are always tormented by their neighbors. For instance, when Man City had just been taken over by Sheikh Mansour, Man Utd have been continuing to send barbed comments towards Man City such as when Sir Alex Ferguson labeled Man City as a “Small Team with Small Mentality” as well as “They are just noisy neighbors” among others, and also other comments from the noisier members of the Man Utd squad such as the man everyone loves to hate, Gary Neville. Not even the “Welcome to Manchester” poster could counter the burgeoning mind games from the Red half of Manchester. All of these mind games are always eating up into the team no matter what and it would seem that countering all these mind games can be considered as a Sisyphean work. Unless Man City learns how to be Barcelona and ignore all of these mind games and just focus on the task at hand, again Man Utd would reign supreme and Man City will not win the title. To add on to the point on Barcelona, prior to the last El Clasico encounter with Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho kept on trying to play mind games to derail Barcelona’s morale prior to the encounter. However, Pep Guardiola stood firm and not only he ignored Mourinho’s barbs, but he also managed to keep his whole squad from succumbing to the mind games. The result: 5-0 thrashing of Real Madrid which left Mourinho red-faced in embarrassment.
Lastly, one huge thorn within Man City is none other than their current skipper, Carlos Tevez. “El Capitan” has been a revelation for Man City as he has managed to perform incredibly well for the Citizens. However, it is too bad that after a string of good performances, the Argentine suddenly would go out and declare that he is homesick, he is sick of football, and even talks about returning to Manchester United have surfaced. Whether Man City and their fans like it or not, whether they win the title or just scrapping for Europa League berth simply rests on the shoulders of Tevez. When Tevez performs, the team performs. When Tevez is switched off, Man City lose games.
It is puzzling on why Tevez blows hot and cold, and that his commitments seem to be questionable. Perhaps, Man City have not yet been able to fully convert Tevez to the Blue half of Manchester. After all, he was brought in from none other than Manchester United! The only solution is of course to decrease the over-reliance on Carlos Tevez. Last night’s match against Aston Villa seemed to again remind the fans that Mario Balotelli can be another man to rely on. However, Balotelli is even more volatile than Tevez. Oh well…
The message is of course, unless Manchester City is able to usurp Manchester United in all aspects namely performances on the pitch, off the pitch, as well as managing Carlos Tevez and other stars such as Mario Balotelli carefully, no title talks can be declared. Man City should be happy that they are already in the lofty position that they are now, and to be carried away at this stage would be suicidal, especially as there is one more potentially dangerous Manchester Derby at Old Trafford still to come!