Neil Humphreys: City, United don't deserve Europe
Both Manchester clubs did little in derby to suggest they should fly EPL flag in Champions League next season
It has come to this.
The richest club in the world and the biggest club in the world falling over themselves to celebrate a point in one of the worst Manchester Derbies in recent memory.
On the turgid evidence presented at the Etihad Stadium yesterday morning (Singapore time), neither City nor United deserve to reach the Champions League next season.
If justice was served and it was mathematically possible, both clubs would fall out of the top four. In effect, they'd be falling on their swords in a selfless gesture to save the English Premier League from itself.
The ceaseless hype can no longer mask what the eye can see. These former heavyweights can barely compete with each other let alone the best in Europe.
All season long, Barcelona have listened to the same old story, the one about ageing superstars and ending eras.
But comparing the recent El Clasico to the Manchester Derby is like comparing a Picasso to paint drying on an HDB void deck.
The Catalans would've picked off either Manchester side like an "ah pek" brushing dandruff off his singlet.
City and United, remember, were first and second title favourites respectively in pre-season.
They had everything in their favour. They had Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho and jittery owners spending hundreds of millions of dollars to remain competitive.
They were Champions League semi-finalists and FA Cup winners respectively, ready to step up and seize the throne.
The battle for Manchester was going to be the battle for domestic supremacy. Instead, the Manchester Derby became a battle to stave off a coma.
NO IMPROVEMENT IN EPL
Neither Guardiola nor Mourinho has improved on his sacked predecessor's achievements.
The United manager still might, if he prevails in the Europa League, but domestic form has hit a plateau at both clubs.
It's laughable, quite frankly, that Marouane Fellaini's suspension for his idiotic headbutt now threatens to ruin United's top-four aspirations.
He will miss pivotal games against Swansea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
The Belgian bruiser once epitomised all that was allegedly wrong with David Moyes' tenure as United coach.
Both men were considered industrious, but ultimately too limited in their talent and thinking to truly excel.
Under Mourinho, however, Fellaini has become an integral part of United's cynical plans. His perceived weaknesses are now strengths.
He's made 42 appearances for United this season, leading not so much from the front as with his head and elbows.
Fellaini fits a negative template that has resulted in 24 league games undefeated, but other statistics are more telling. United registered only three efforts on goal against City - their lowest figure since the stats began in the 2003/04 season.
Mourinho's men also managed just 30.8 per cent possession, again their lowest total since the 2003/04 season.
Their best player was Michael Carrick, the last jewel left from Fergie's crown.
He's 36 in July and still a class above, a poignant reminder of a time when United enraptured, rather than suffocated.
The Red Devils used to play great football. Now they stop great footballers from playing.
At the very least, Mourinho has a slight excuse, as always he does. The list of injuries and suspensions is long, even if patience is thin when it comes to the endless whining about the fixture list.
However, it's hard to find justification for City's drift towards irrelevance.
Even without David Silva, Guardiola's line-up cost more than £300 million (S$542m).
And yet, they ran out with a goalkeeper who can't keep, a back four with more miles on the clock than a car running down its COE, a midfield of old men and an attack more fearful of crosses than Dracula in daylight.
And, City simply could not cross the ball. Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane took possession out wide, then they recycled the ball back to Kevin de Bruyne and then they repeated the exercise. For the entire match.
In his five-minute cameo, Gabriel Jesus offered more attacking impetus than all his teammates in the previous 85 minutes.
EPL hype dictates that we must now focus on the fallout from Fellaini's red card, the remaining fixtures and the exciting dash for the top four. Anything that distracts us from the unavoidable reality.
In terms of sporting spectacle, this was rubbish.
City and United must take off the EPL blinkers, cast aside the reputations of their managers and acknowledge the lack of real progress.
Closing the gap between themselves and the top four is proving difficult enough. But the distance between the Manchester clubs and Europe's elite remains a chasm.