On The Left Side

Is there a more over-hyped football match than the Manchester Derby?

More often than not the big games carefully selected by Sky to exist under the pressure-heavy title of “Super Sunday” results in disappointing, turgid affair. So why do expect any different with this weekends encounter between the current Premier League “Top Two”.

I say “Top Two” in a way that would suggest that we are experiencing some kind of competitive title race this season. We are not. In fact, Pep Guardiola’s team’s dominance has made the Premier League title fight look about as fair as that time little Jimmy Crankie took on Giant Haystacks on Saturday Morning TV (thinking about this it may have been a dream).

“Fair” is an interesting word, isn’t it? It’s a word I’ve heard used more and more recently when it comes to the work of Pep at City compared to Jose at Manchester United. I’ve witnessed countless United fans bemoaning the “fairness” or Manchester City’s large cash reserves and the ability of their owners to “Buy the league” whilst at the same time conveniently forgetting the £300million spent at Old Trafford over the last 18 months. Even portions of the press are getting sucked into the equality of it all, some suggesting that The Special One has performed minor miracles to even keep the gap between the two sides to a slim 8 points (a larger gap than currently exists between Celtic and Ranger is the perennial one-side Scottish Premier League incident). Fair suddenly seems very important in a sport where it has always come second to “glory” and “finance”.

As for The Derby itself? With the exception of a handful of encounters, for the neutral, they generally disappoint. The passion isn’t quite there. For many United fans, this is not the real derby, they have more interest in their historic battles with Liverpool rather than the “noisy neighbours” who have moved in next door and set about turning their two-up-two-down terrace into a palacious mansion with its own pool. As for the players? Do they care more about this game than any other? Sure, they will have been reminded of the importance to the fans but with no real home-grown icon in the squad can they be expected to understand the relevance of such a game, and even if they did, truly care?

The battle between Guardiola’s sexy, silky football and Mourinho’s cautious, defensive approach looks good in theory (but so did The Phantom Menace) but will do doubt lead to a damp squib of a football match (just like TPM). It’s a battle of philosophies and whilst Jose (probably) bemoans his lack of spending power Pep bemoans those pesky teams that just “don’t want to play football” putting men behind the ball and trying to hit City on the counter-attack. Why can’t everyone play football how the great Guardiola wants to eh? It would seem to be the approach that irritates the Spanish boss the most and you can be sure it will be the one that Jose adopts this weekend. Spoil sport.

To paraphrase Kevin Keegan: I would LOVE it if we got a great game of football. An attacking, end to end spectacle that helped close the gap in the title race and added extra spice to the second half of the season but I never much doubt we will get it.

Want to hear more of Jim’s sideways look at the beautiful game. Check out On The Left Side, the Alternative Football Show. On iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Alexa.