When the appointments of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola were announced by their respective Manchester clubs, the decisions were lauded by both fans and pundits alike.
Many were tipping either of the Manchester teams to clinch the title this year, after the poor performances from the usual big teams allowed underdogs Leicester to spectacularly gain their maiden league success last season.
But it has panned out very differently to how many imagined. Manchester City are currently sitting precariously in fourth position, with their early ambitions to win the league quashed by Chelsea’s menacing form at the summit. Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge of the Citizens is to be trophy-less – a first in the Spaniard’s managerial career.
As for the Red Devils, they are languishing behind their ‘noisy neighbours’ in fifth place, albeit just one point adrift of a Champions League spot. Jose Mourinho’s first season back in England’s top flight, since his sacking by Chelsea, has seen his side embark on an impressive unbeaten streak – stretching back to a defeat at the hands of his old employers.
But United have struggled to break down teams at crucial times, which has seen them fail to pick up much-needed victories at Old Trafford. Frustrating draws against the likes of Everton, Stoke City and Burnley put an end to any languishing title hopes.
However, aside from the Premier League, the two Manchester teams have experienced contrasting degrees of success in other competitions.
Guardiola’s City reached the semi finals of the FA Cup, but were knocked out by Arsenal in extra time. The Citizens were also defeated by United in the EFL Cup, which eventually saw the Red Devils go on to win the trophy outright.
In Europe, Manchester United’s ambition of winning the Europa League is edging ever closer, with Mourinho’s side paired with Celta Vigo in the semi finals. The Portuguese tactician has said he will be prioritising this competition, as United struggle to gain much-needed European football next season.
Manchester City reached the Champions League round of 16 , where they were matched up against Monaco. With an in-form strike partnership of Columbian veteran Falcao and young star Mbappe, Monaco lived up to their free-scoring reputation as they knocked City out 6-6, progressing due to the away goals rule. However, Manchester City did demonstrate signs in their maiden European journey under Guardiola that they were gradually taking to his new style of football.
With both clubs arguably underachieving across the board thus far, both managers may need a lift to the end of their respective Premier League campaigns.
Manchester City’s hopes of finishing in the top four will edge closer to reality if they can beat their rivals, as they would open up a four point gap between them and fifth position. A win for City tomorrow, and Mourinho may need to begrudgingly concede that his side’s top four dream is over.
With tricky away ties at Tottenham and Arsenal still to come, Manchester United seem likely to continue rotating teams in the league and prioritise European football instead.
Let battle commence.