There was a sustained period of time in Manchester where the blue half of the city were simply viewed as irrelevant to Manchester United, with Reds so unconcerned with the rivalry it reached the point of sheer mockery.
Whilst United romped to title after title, double after double – City found themselves deep within the doldrums of the English Football League, embroiled in a much more relevant local rivalry when coming up against Stockport County.
Even when City delivered one of their finer moments of the Nineties when dramatically scrapping through a Second Division Play-Off Final on penalties against Gillingham in 1999 – United were there to eclipse them – with the year being much more recognisable for United’s unprecedented treble.
It wasn’t until City received an influx of investment from Thaksin Shinawatra in 2007 and subsequently in 2008 from Sheikh Mansour that City even became vaguely relevant in the Premier League.
Even with such investment and for all their clamour, City still managed to provide moments of sheer hilarity and despair in equal measure with the general feeling in those early days still resembling the whole ‘typical City’ mantra.
Moments such as the crushing 8-1 defeat away to Middlesbrough, the unveiling of Robinho for a British record transfer fee turning rather farcical, when the Brazilian seemed to struggle to establish which club he had actually signed for and also the exposure of Garry Cook’s generally moronic behaviour which subsequently ended his tenure as CEO just some of the highlights.
However in the last five to six years Manchester City have begun to get things emphatically right on and off the field under the guidance of Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano – which accumulated in the club winning their first major trophy in 35 years with 2011’s FA Cup success. Since then the floodgates have opened somewhat with two Premier League trophies secured from the last four available and a League Cup success wedged in between.
Worryingly for United, whilst their bitter rivals have established themselves within English football’s elite; they have stagnated and fallen away from challenging for domestic trophies and in Europe since the departures of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill.
The appointment and the consequences of the David Moyes era set the ball rolling for ridicule and amusement for those unconnected with the club – with the club being sent years behind their domestic rivals under the Scots stewardship.
Ultimately Moyes’ appointment signalled all was not well at board-level within Old Trafford, with the club missing out on a host of favoured targets before appointing the former Everton manager. As much was confirmed with Sir Alex Ferguson’s admission that the club failed in their attempts to bring Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti to name just a few to Manchester – instead they plumped for their fifth or sixth choice in the Scot.
Subsequently Moyes was unable to make a masterpiece out of the blank canvas of a squad left to him and instead, he tarnished it to the tune of £27.5m in the form of Marouane Fellaini. With performances poor and pressure high, the subsequent signing of Juan Mata for £37m just showcased how desperate United were to resolve the situation.
This also symbolised a change to United’s usually measured approach in the transfer market. By throwing huge sums about without considering the squad balance, the clubs armoury was left lopsided – City meanwhile landed their second Premier League title.
Moyes was eventually relieved of his duties and Louis Van Gaal was touted as the man to steady the ship. Having built lasting foundations at Ajax, Barcelona and more recently Bayern Munich there was hope the Dutchman’s appointment would return the club to glory.
However his much maligned philosophy has simply made United almost unwatchable. Their renowned identity of exuberant, high-tempo football has been lost and replaced with risk-free, possession-based performances which have failed to entertain or land any silverwear.
Whilst commercially Untied have never been stronger thanks to Ed Woodward and Richard Arnold, it’s performances on the field which matter most to supporters. United have seemingly focused more on the business side of the game rather than the health of their footballing empire.
City on the other hand have recently extended their Etihad Stadium and regenerated the surrounding area to accommodate vastly improved training facilities for both the first-team and the clubs academy. The facilities are state-of-the-art and the academy is now producing talent which eclipses United’s, who are still yet to appoint an academy director since the departure of Brian McClair seven months ago.
These developments should worry United fans immensely and should be getting addressed by Woodward and the board; rather than focusing on announcing their latest noodle or casino partnership.
Manchester United also risk accepting mediocrity should they fail to address the problems poised by Louis Van Gaal’s current reign – however the club is unlikely to act any time soon unless it impacts the club financially – which is an indictment of what matters most to the those in charge at the club.
It’s Manchester City who are looking the more progressive and if their rumoured move for Pep Guardiola in the summer comes to fruition, further foundations will be laid at the club for years to come.
Guardiola is almost a guaranteed blue-print to success and whilst his tenures tend to be short at three to four years – they will undoubtedly be sweet for the club in terms of achieving success and raising the profile of the club even further.