Says much about the times that Mancunian derby has a clear favourite: Premier League; The Weekend That Will Be

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The fans were outraged. A plane had been arranged to voice displeasure over his position. Before that, supporters aimed to rip off the banner which had his face and the message ‘The Chosen One’. David Moyes’ post-match, after Manchester United lost heavily at home to Manchester City in March of 2014, was famous for the manager speaking about United having to get to City’s level. That caused some displeasure, to say the least, among the Old Trafford faithful, over their manager stating that the team have to get to the level of a side whom they finished 11 points above in the previous season.

A month later, fans got their wish, Moyes was axed, but it’s been over four years since that statement, and not only do the Scotsman’s words seem true, they have also been echoed by the current United manager. Jose Mourinho says things that many disagree with, and some disagree with the fact United aren’t at City’s ilk because they don’t spend as much, but one thing that’s not debatable is the fact that United are not at City’s ilk.

In the past five seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and Moyes came in, the position differences between City and United have been six, two, one, three and one place respectively, and in none of those seasons have United been the top Mancunian side in the league. In that time, City have been league champions twice, while the only semblance United had of competing in a title race was last season, when they finished 19 points behind, there you go, Manchester City.

Not only are they seemingly on different planes, they look to be heading in different directions. At the start of the season, talk was of whether City would go on to win the title at a canter and with such a margin like last term; while at United focus was on whether there would be Third Season Syndrome with Mourinho at United. It looked to be heading that way in August, after two defeats from their first three league games, it also looked to be heading that way in September, after a hapless loss at West Ham, but things have steadied so far, just one defeat since that game at the Olympic Stadium, at home to a Juventus side whom they beat in Turin last Wednesday.

Yet despite the positives that that win brought, it still says much of the current times that it was deemed as a famous victory, a monumental achievement rather than a norm. It says so much of how far United have fallen that any rise should be celebrated, any punch high is deemed above their weight.

Not that winning against a solid Juventus side shouldn’t be celebrated, beating a hitherto unbeaten side who hadn’t conceded a goal in the Champions League this season until that night is a definite positive. But the sense of inferiority United had going into both games against the Italian champions, shows the fact that the Red Devils will have the underdog tag in big games.

That’s the tag Mourinho seems to have wanted to have with United, the Portuguese has always thrived when seen as the unfancied side, the ‘little horse’ in his words, and that’s the tag United look to be holding so far, not least as they visit the Etihad for the Manchester derby this weekend. The title already seems gone, United already look like outsiders for the top four, so the small fry status is already in play.

Victory at the Etihad is not impossible, neither is it improbable, United have been improving lately, and they did win at the Etihad in April. But this isn’t just about victory. It’s about the fact that the outcome of this game only happens in the moment. The Manchester derby is still a huge game between bitter city rivals, but it is hardly much of a big game involving title rivals.

Elsewhere:

  • Things aren’t going well for Fulham, the Cottagers dropping to the foot of the table after defeat at Huddersfield on Monday night, and it doesn’t look to be getting any better, as they travel to Anfield. It may be a good time to face a Liverpool side who looked awful and commonplace in their Champions League defeat at Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday, but with Fulham not knowing how to defend, advocates of Slavisa Jokanovic will hope the Serb’s future doesn’t hinge on this.
  • After the raving and praise over their start to the season, Wolves have been brought well back down to earth with three defeats in a row. Nuno Esprito Santo’s team visit a high-flying Arsenal side this weekend, so they’ll have to get statement result to get back on their feet.

Fixtures

Arsenal v Wolves

Crystal Palace v Tottenham

Cardiff v Brighton

Chelsea v Everton

Liverpool v Fulham

Manchester City v Manchester United

Huddersfield v West Ham

Leicester v Burnley

Newcastle v Bournemouth

Southampton v Watford

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