In the Premier League, three points are worth their weight in gold. That’s not hyperbolic, millions of dollars (or pounds sterling if you want to be like that) are at stake every game. Such is the nature of such a closely contested league. Even midtable teams get more money for placing one league standing higher, giving them millions more to invest in the team (or the owner’s pocket if you’re Newcastle). That being said, in recent years the derby match between Manchester United and their “noisy neighbors” at Manchester City has become very exciting. It’s tradition vs new money, an evil empire vs possibly it’s replacement. So beyond that, what would a win mean for each team going into this game?
Manchester City is definitely going into this game needing a win more than United. With two losses and a draw in their last three games (against opponents they should have walked over), a win is essential here to get them back on track. They will need every point to keep up with a machine-like Chelsea this season. If this game were against any other opponent, a loss would put an incredible amount of pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini. A loss to their biggest historical rivals would be almost too much to bear at this stage. The Manchester City fans and owners alike are beginning to get used to success and anything less will become unbearable. I’m not saying that a loss would be the end of Pellegrini at City, but the level of pressure that it would place on the players and the manager would give them very little room to slip up the rest of the season. A win, however, would stable the ship for the team and show the fans that the last three games were just a blip on what could still be a great season for them.
Manchester United, on the other hand, are coming into this game with a lot less pressure. They were terrible last season and have already looked like a more cohesive team this season (offensively, at least). This game, while they will be very motivated to win it, is not a must-win on the same level as Manchester City. Their last three games, to compare with City’s, is two draws and a win. Not too much better on paper, but when you consider the opposition (draws against Chelsea and West Brom and a win against Everton) it looks much better. The fans this season are expecting a challenge for 4th place and they are certainly on track for that. A win here will be a big boost to the team, motivationally, and could see them kick on through the rest of the season. That isn’t to say there aren’t cracks in this team, however. They appeared to be going back to their old ways against West Brom and have again looked poor at points in this season, especially when you consider that this is the most expensive squad in the history of Premier League. You read that right, it’s more expensive than any team ever assembled by Manchester City or Chelsea. And United fans complain the owners don’t support the team enough. Regardless, Manchester United are truly one bad loss away from being considered back in a slump and they must avoid that scenario or else the pressure will be on them again.
This game will see some of the best attacking talent in the world come up against each other. With both teams looking defensively suspect in recent weeks, neutrals can all hope for an absolute goalfest this weekend.
The Manchester Derby will air on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) at 8:30 Sunday, November 2.