It is not often that Manchester United fans find themselves wanting neighbours City to win a match, but there may be good reason to be secretly rooting for Pep Guardiola’s men this weekend.
The Citizens are set to play Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup final tomorrow and should they lose, the Red Devils’ top transfer target Jack Grealish would be much more likely to stay at Villa Park.
Grealish is a lifelong Villa fan and would like to realise his football dreams with his home club, but with the Midlands outfit facing relegation it has been looking more and more likely that he would need to move on to play on the biggest stages.
However, a win against City tomorrow could change all that.
First, it would mean that as Carabao Cup winners, Villa would qualify to play in the Europa League next season, whether or not they avoid relegation from the Premier League.
The 2020/21 season will be the last in which the League Cup winners will get a place in that tournament, as from 2021/22 they will only qualify for the incipient Europa Conference League.
The dream of leading his home side out onto the pitch in European competition could well persuade the 24-year-old to stay in Birmingham, if only for one more season.
Villa manager Dean Smith has admitted it could be a factor. ‘I don’t know. That is a question we will have to answer in the summer’ he said at the pre-match press conference. ‘Obviously staying in this league is probably one of the biggest things that will help us to keep Jack Grealish. He wants to play at the highest level and win trophies.’
The other element to Villa’s potential qualification for Europe is that it would considerably ease the club’s financial problems, with prize money, TV revenues and gate receipts capable of bringing millions of extra pounds to the debt-stricken club. This in turn would mean it would be less necessary to sell Grealish and would put Villa in a much stronger bargaining position should the Red Devils come knocking.
It is highly unlikely of course that the Grealish situation would be enough to see United fans celebrate a goal from Aguero and co. tomorrow. But it could at least be a silver lining and relieve some of the pain of seeing our neighbours and rivals lifting yet another trophy.
With all the recent publicity about whether some of the current squad is good enough to play for Man United, why not remind yourself of some of the worst flops to ever appear at the Theatre of Dreams by doing our quiz below?