GARY LIM and IAIN MACINTOSH share their views ahead of the Manchester Derby...
GARY: We though it was all over, didn’t we?
Roberto Mancini kind of reminded us that 524 times over the past month, until last weekend.
IAIN: I certainly did. When I looked at United’s fixtures, I didn’t think there was any way that they would drop points to Wigan and Everton. They should be disgusted with themselves.
GARY: Disgust is a kind word to use.
For a while, they resembled a little more like the United of old, grinding out the results efficiently and without fuss.
All of a sudden, they have started to look panicky. And now, they are in danger of losing top position with just two games to go.
IAIN: They’ve gone to pieces at the back. I don’t think Everton have scored four goals on the road since the early days of David Moyes.
To do it at Old Trafford was absolutely staggering. Whenever people say that this United side are a pale shadow of the great teams of the past, there’s always opposition from their fans. But I think even the most ardent supporter would have to agree that something isn’t right.
The 2012 United aren’t a great team, they’re just marginally less mediocre than everyone else.
GARY: Not a surprise then to see the English clubs struggling in Europe, save for Chelsea.
I agree with you that their defence has looked pathetic. Patrice Evra, in particular, has been one of their worst players and yet continues to captain the side.
Surely this must be his last season at Old Trafford?
IAIN: He’s certainly not the player he was, but so much depends on the men holding the purse strings.
Will they want to back Sir Alex Ferguson for a rebuilding job?
I suspect they might prefer to wait and keep their powder dry for the next man.
Besides, the da Silva brothers were supposed to be the natural heirs to the flanks.
What’s gone wrong with them?
GARY: They just haven’t made that step up. Nemanja Vidic’s injury was a huge blow to the backline too.
It doesn’t help that Rio Ferdinand seems to be on his last legs.
I wonder how they are going to repel the powerful City attack.
Now that City have got an unexpected second chance, I just can’t see them not winning this one.
It’s human nature. You’re about to drown, and someone throws you a buoy.
Imagine the relief and the adrenalin. If United are not careful at the Etihad Stadium, City might just blow them away.
IAIN: City have got all the momentum right now.
It’s amazing to see the difference in their performance when the pressure was lifted off them.
When they lost the Arsenal game and everyone wrote them off, something changed.
Finally, they stopped overplaying it and snatching at chances. They were like a team released.
I still think that Newcastle away is going to be too much for them.
The Magpies are chasing a Champions League place. United were beaten 3-0 by them and it wouldn’t surprise me for a moment if Newcastle beat City as well.
I still suspect that United will somehow rumble home, but City will surely make them work for it.
GARY: I think City are going to beat United in the derby.
What I’m not too sure about is how the foreign players at City, especially those still new to the English Premier League, will react when the studs and elbows start flying in from all directions.
This will have the robust feel of a typical FA Cup final, as English as jellied eels.
Bet David Silva and Co. haven’t tried those before.
Question marks over their mental strength aside, I think City are a better side than United this season.
IAIN: I think they have better players, but I’m not convinced they’re a better team just yet.
I believe City’s players know what to expect by now. If they don’t, they’ve got no right to consider themselves contenders.
I think they’ll be okay though.
They did, after all, put six past this team at Old Trafford.
GARY: We’ve seen plenty of goals in the big Premiership games this season. I hope we have another goal fest in store.
There are just so many sub-plots waiting to be played out.
For example, can you imagine what it will be like if Carlos Tevez scores the winning goal in this match?
Or if David de Gea, under so much criticism early in the season, puts in a Man-of-the-Match performance to keep a clean sheet?
IAIN: I still think that United will draw this game, win their last two and ease their way in for title No. 20.
But I agree with Roberto Mancini. Next year will be their year.