Manchester City go into Monday night’s derby against Manchester United with one thing on their mind, to restore some pride into what has been a pretty mediocre season by—what has quickly become—their astronomical standards.
The race for the league is over, with United absolute certainties to retain their crown and move the Premier League back over to the red side of Manchester, leaving City’s only hope of a trophy being the FA Cup—where they face Chelsea in the semi-final next weekend.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s young United side, aided by the summer arrival of Robin van Persie, have been ruthless and efficient rather than breathtaking and mesmeric this season. But hey, a win's a win, and they are deserving winners.
Neither side has stood alone as the best side in what has been quite a disappointing Premier League campaign. This less-than-vintage season cannot be better highlighted than by looking at the qualifiers for the last eight of this season’s Champions League—with no Premier League team making it to the latter stages of the tournament.
For Roberto Mancini this game is an opportunity to make a statement, to show the rest of the league that although his team may have been off the pace for the majority of the season, they are still to be considered serious players within this league.
It could also be a game for some players to show they deserve to stay at the club in the summer. Players like Samir Nasri, Edin Dezko and Gareth Barry could be, in theory, auditioning for their futures.
With changes aplenty expected in the summer, this could be the ideal opportunity for these excellent players to show why they deserve to part of a squad that will be challenging for the title again next season.
For United it is an occasion they can revel in, 15 points clear of their rivals and having already beaten them on their ground, this could really put the icing on cake for United.
The game itself may well be played like a cup tie, with both sides having nothing to lose, and both teams would love nothing more than to inflict pain on the other.
City have looked as though they could finish strongly, and their 4-0 victory over Newcastle last weekend was as good as a performance they have produced this season.
United, though, seemed a little lacklustre in their FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Chelsea on Easter Monday as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat.
Their chances of a potential treble have been dashed in the space of a month as they have crashed out of both the FA Cup and the Champions League.
I cannot foresee City losing at Old Trafford on Monday night, and although I don’t believe that the result will be as emphatic as last season’s 6-1 mauling, it will allow City to show they will not be going anywhere and will be serious challengers next season.
If only Robin van Persie had chosen blue instead of red, it could have been a very different story.