Premier League: Pep Guardiola's Manchester City looks to make an example out of Manchester United's fall in status

  • Manchester City host their cross-town rivals Manchester United on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium in what could prove to be a season-defining match.

  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men find themselves sixth on the Premier League table with only five wins out of their 15 matches totalling 21 points.

  • Pep Guardiola's Manchester City have double the number of wins and are sitting discontentedly in third position on 32 points.

Manchester City host their cross-town rivals Manchester United on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium in what could prove to be a season-defining match in the story of 2019-20 edition of the Premier League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men find themselves sixth on the Premier League table with only five wins out of their 15 matches totalling 21 points. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have double the number of wins and are sitting discontentedly in third position on 32 points.

On the nature of daylight

 Premier League: Pep Guardiolas Manchester City looks to make an example out of Manchester Uniteds fall in status

Manchester City host their cross-town rivals at the Etihad Stadium in what could prove to be a season-defining match. AP

Ancient Japanese culture has had sacred regard for white space. Seen in Japanese music, tapestries, calligraphy scroll – the notes, the strokes, the stitches only take part in two-fourth of the composition give or take. Take Japan’s most famous painting, Hokusai’s Great Wave of Kanagawa, and how white space forms another wave by its lack of imprint. The philosophy behind this is two folds: that life is long, mostly uneventful, inglorious, but when it is not, it’s beautiful and that’s what makes it worthwhile.

Manchester United’s reign as the most prolific provider of highlight reels have succumbed to that period of blankness, making their millennial supporters cherish even more the glories of the past decade. Solksjaer helplessly looks to the horizon in search of terra firma, as his ship drifts, caught in the sub-equatorial doldrums, at the mercy of prevailing win(d)s offering whimsical momentum before the sails fall flat again.

You know it’s less than ideal when the pundits of their club’s own sponsored channel has been calling out the team and undermining protocol. Prior to last weeks face-saving performance vs Tottenham, the Norwegian had clocked fewer points than Jose Mourinho, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal in his voyage so far. And he seems to be shrinking, greying, ageing with every passing post-match press conference with the burden of knowing that this is United’s most deplorable start to a League season since 1988-89: back when he was cleaning snow off cleats in Clausenengen FK’s academy, trying to earn is apprenticeship. This is a 46-year-old man trying to earn his right all over again.

The 2-1 win vs Tottenham, when put in context, is a false-positive, as well as their position in the league table. When looked at more carefully, Manchester United are closer to Everton (9-point gap in the relegation zone than they are to Liverpool (22-point gap) at the top of the table. A few ugly results in the strenuous Christmas run-in – Everton at home, Watford away, Burnley away – precisely the kind of teams they have struggled against this season, and they will be flung in the pit of the bottom of the table dogfight. The daylight between themselves and tonight’s host is clear.

Once ridiculed for their nouveau rich ambitions, Manchester City are now the bannister with which Lancashire football’s prestige climbs. With the advent of carrot-cargo pants-wearing Pep Guardiola’s cosmopolitan team, the prince and the pauper’s roles have been interchanged. Yet, as the cliche goes, on derby night, the imaginary form book is thrown out the imaginary window.

This Manchester United side has shown mettle when least expected of them, against the top-of-the-table rompers. The manager of the Red Devil says his team can assume their stature tonight:
“We want them to be arrogant and confident because you don’t shout when you throw the sucker punch. It’s not about shouting the loudest, it’s about doing the talking on the pitch,” said the Norwegian in the pre-match presser.

Addressing the shift of his club’s stature, he added: “What are you going do? Are you going to give up? Not challenge them? That’s what we’ve got to get back to. We are going to try and bridge that gap. So we’re going there to win, we’re going there to get a result, even though we know it’s going to be difficult.”

‘Difficult,’ would be underplaying it. But it is certainly doable. Wolves won 2-0 at the Emirates early in October with a double from Adama Traore. Even a draw will be a good result to take back to Old Trafford. There is also the small matter of the daylight between Liverpool and Manchester City that can bolster Manchester United’s spirit. The 11 point between the table toppers and the Sky Blues is indicative that Manchester City are not their imperious best – and their momentum is only beginning to gather steam, with a loss and a draw in their last Premier League five fixtures.

Solskjaer is mindful of City’s vulnerability and doubly sure of their own strengths. One of them namely being Marcus Rashford.

Manchester United’s conniving win vs former manager Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham was nothing less than convincing, and it was built on the shoulders of their young number 10, Marcus Rashford. He’ll be looking to replicate the kind of steady success his compatriot Raheem Sterling has achieved with Manchester City despite a tutting start. If Manchester United are to win tonight, a lot will depend on Rashford’s ability to pull the City defence apart on counter-attacks.

Team news: For the hosts, Oleksandr Zinchenko is approaching match-fitness but not quite ready. Sergio Aguero,  Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sané remain unavailable through injuries.

Manchester United will be without Paul Pogba. Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot, Nemanja Matic, Marcos Rojo are all doubtful with lack of match fitness.

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Updated Date: Dec 07, 2019 16:05:19 IST