The roller coaster ride of this season’s Premier League title race will have taken yet another twist by the time you read this column.
Manchester City played Manchester United at Old Trafford earlier this morning and anything other than a win for City would hand momentum back to Liverpool.
The build-up to game left United fans torn.
LOADSAMONEY: Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. — Photo AFP
Beating their nearest neighbour would put Liverpool, their biggest rival, in the driving seat to win their first Premier League title. Lose then City will go back on top.
Asking a United fan who they would prefer to win the league between Manchester City and Liverpool is akin to asking them which one of their friends would they like catch in bed with their wife.
Yet despite this tricky conundrum, there’s a growing feeling, not just among United fans, that most people want City to triumph, and I really don’t get that.
There’s no doubt Manchester City are a very good football team with an excellent squad and brilliant manager, but let’s face facts here, they have bought their success.
Sure, you could argue Liverpool have spent a fair chunk of change this season, but their spending powers are small compared to City.
And look back over history, City don’t have one.
Liverpool have won the lot over the years, granted those years are so far in the past the players’ shorts were bordering on indecent and the less said about their haircuts the better.
City on the other hand have only recently arrived on the scene fuelled completely by Middle Eastern cash.
Go back 15 years to the 2004 season, City, managed by Kevin Keegan, finished 8th, lost 12 times and their leading goalscorers were Robbie Fowler and Shaun Wright-Phillips with just 11 apiece.
Then along came Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan with pockets deeper than an Abu Dhabi oil well and boom, City became successful.
Yet despite the whopping cash injection and decent trophy count, City’s support is poor. Free flags were given away for their last Champions League match and a video appeared of crowd noises being played over loudspeakers inside the Etihad Stadium to generate atmosphere.
A week ago even manager Pep Guardiola questioned the commitment of his own supporters.
Travel 50 odd kilometres to Liverpool’s Anfield stadium and it’s like stepping out of a library and into rock concert. It really is chalk and cheese.
Maybe this can be attributed to Liverpool’s desire to win the trophy that has eluded them for so long, or maybe there’s another reason.
Maybe it’s because deep down City fans know their success isn’t earned but manufactured. If they win the league this year will it be because they are the best team or the richest?
A survey was conducted this week asking supporters of all Premier League clubs who they would prefer to win the league, Liverpool or Man City?
Everton fans, well that was a no brainer, they opted for City. So did Chelsea, probably because of the similarities between their two clubs when it comes to buying success and lack of atmosphere.
Southampton fans, probably still miffed that all their best players normally end up leaving and moving north to Liverpool, also preferred City.
And so too did United fans.
I even read one comment from a Manchester United supporter, probably from the Home Counties, claiming he would personally tie the blue ribbons on the trophy and was supporting City over United when the two sides met.
It reminded me of the oddest football match I’ve ever been to.
It was May 15th 1995, Liverpool versus Blackburn Rovers who were at the time managed by Kenny Dalglish.
Blackburn needed to beat Liverpool to win the league, while a loss and a win on the same day for Manchester United for would hand the Mancunians the title.
Liverpool ended up winning the match 2-1 thanks to a 90th minute goal by Jamie Redknapp which was barely celebrated.
As it happened, it didn’t matter as Manchester United had failed to beat West Ham and the trophy went to Blackburn.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t want Liverpool to win that game, or to be more precise, I didn’t want Manchester United to win the league. But it’s not quite the same as the current situation.
Blackburn were managed by a Liverpool legend and there was little, if any, rivalry between the two sides.
I was supporting Manchester United earlier today against City and waking up to discover they had won would be better than waking up alongside Halle Berry. Let’s hope my dreams came true. — VNS