The turn of the year marked a significant turning point for Manchester United and City but in two wholly different manners. Whilst the former has developed and settled into a previously shaky system, the latter has collapsed under the pressure of retaining a league title.
As Old Trafford prepares for one of the games of the season in the Manchester derby, we take a look at both teams’ form in 2015 in this two part series and how Louis van Gaal and Manuel Pellegrini find themselves in very different circumstances.
Let’s start with City. Out of the last 12 games of 2014 in the Premier League, the Sky Blues had won nine, drawn two and lost just once. Feeling the heat but keeping up with Jose Mourinho’s league leaders Chelsea, Pellegrini’s men looked set to carry a strong bid to retain their title as champions for the first time in what seemed ultimately a two horse race at the top.
However. 2015 has been wholly different for City. In the next 12 games from January 1 onwards, City lost a third of their league games and out of a possible 36 points they’ve only picked up a measly 18. It’s relegation form, not defending champions form.
It seems a case of mentality for our city rivals than an actual lack of quality. For a vastly experienced team, they are yet to win back to back titles despite hundreds of millions of spending in previous years. World renowned talents such as Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany have regressed worryingly quickly and an ageing squad looks ready for a footballing face lift next season.
Sir Alex Ferguson said on many occasions that the hardest part of winning a title was retaining it the next term and that has never looked more true than right now. Questions are coming thick and fast for Pellegrini and right now the football world seem stuck between “Do they want it enough?” or “Did they think it would be easy?”.
Either way, a title challenging side at the start of the season has slipped to fourth by April, one point behind United in a dramatic turn of events, and it looks more and more likely both the playing and managerial staff will look very different come next season.
So what for the trip to Old Trafford? Low on form, confidence and direction, the odds don’t look in Manchester City’s favour. That being said, writing off City would be incredibly foolish and form tends to mean little in these games but what we can say is that this is set to be a much tighter battle than the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign.
A repeat victory over the Reds at the weekend is a result that the blue half of Manchester can’t be very confident about.