The fortunes of Manchester's two football clubs have differed greatly this season. While Manchester United have struggled for form, losing five home matches, exiting the FA Cup at the first hurdle and languishing down in seventh in the Premier League, Manchester City have become the league's great entertainers, scoring 59 goals (94 in all competitions) and fighting on four fronts.
Of course, this hasn't always been the case. Over the last 20 years United have been the most successful club in England, while City, up until 2002, were a yo-yo club, flitting between divisions, never likely to win silverware.
In 1998/99, City fell as far as Division 2—the third tier of English football—only managing to scrape promotion via the playoffs with an incredible win over Gillingham, a match which essentially saved the club from financial ruin. United, meanwhile, were winning an unprecedented treble.
But who has the brighter future?
In terms of signing players, not only do City have more financial power, they also appear to have a more organised, focused team in charge of recruitment. City's swift and decisive summer transfer window was in stark contrast to United's, who dragged their heels and publicly courted players who there never seemed to be any chance of them signing.
City brought in four new players before the end of July, giving Manuel Pellegrini a full month to bed Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, Fernandinho and Stevan Jovetic into his squad. It was a brilliant, efficient recruitment process led by director of football Txiki Begiristain, and it allowed City's new manager plenty of time to prepare his players for the new season.
United dithered, lacked a clear transfer strategy and were unable to bring their first-choice players in. The public pursuit of Cesc Fabregas seemed bizarre at the time, and so it proved. Moyes went public about his desire to sign the Spaniard, yet a deal never materialised. There was also the bizarre collapse of their Ander Herrera deal, and the failed Leighton Baines bid.
They eventually overpaid for Marouane Fellaini who, at £27 million, has so far proven to be somewhat of a disappointment. It was an unmitigated disaster, and it seems David Moyes and Ed Woodward are going to have to improve their performance in the market if they are to match the efficiency of Begiristain and Pellegrini.
In terms of ownership, City also outdo their rivals. While the Glazers use United's profits to service the debt created by their takeover (via the Guardian), Sheikh Mansour continues to invest heavily in all aspects of City.
The Blues have announced stadium expansion plans and will open their new 80 acre state-of-the-art training and youth complex in time for the start of next season (via the Telegraph). It's set to be the envy of world football, with facilities to aid the development of youth and first-team players, a hotel and a 7000-seater stadium for youth teams to play their fixtures.
It's hoped that the investment will see City begin to produce their own players, something they have struggled to do in recent seasons.
United, however, are still far more profitable, and enjoy huge commercial success across the world—the kind City can only really dream of at this stage. City are making great strides in that area, though, and success is the best way to bridge the gap.
The problem for United is that the Glazers' style of ownership means they see little of that profit invested into the first team, something that has clearly caught up with them this season. Their squad looks tired and old, short of the quality needed to compete for the title.
Question marks also remain over the appointment of David Moyes, who at this stage looks unqualified for such a huge job. He was brave to step into Sir Alex Ferguson's shoes, which shows the desire and belief he has, but he's cut a forlorn figure for much of the season.
Pellegrini, on the other hand, has taken to the City job seamlessly, implementing a very clear and attractive style of play which has yielded some excellent results.
United's insistence on employing a Scotsman, rather than casting their net further afield, appears to be hurting them.
It's clear that City have a much better chance of success in the short term, but football can change very quickly. United will always remain an attractive club for players because of their success, but for now they are in a turbulent period, whilst City look as strong as they ever have.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.
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