At home against Manchester City, the odds aren’t as bad for Manchester United as you might think.
In football, a week might feel like an eternity, and four months can feel like an eternity in the sport. Certainly, much has changed since the last time Manchester United and Manchester City met in the Premier League.
At Old Trafford in the pouring rain on a November afternoon, Manchester United was thoroughly demoralized by the loss. Although they were beaten 5-0 by Liverpool just two weeks previously, the performance of the home side was far more humiliating than their defeat by the Reds two weeks prior.
Despite the fact that City only won by two goals in the first half, when they should have won by a lot more, the modest scoreline was much more painful to swallow since the Blues did not feel the need to go for the jugular as they did in the memorable 6-1 victory. As a result, they nearly felt sorry for their next-door neighbors and chose to stay put for the duration. Damning.
United were thrashed 4-1 by Watford a week later, which proved to be the penultimate nail in the coffin of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure in the club’s managerial chair.
After Solskjaer was fired, Michael Carrick took over as temporary manager for the final three games of the season. Ralf Rangnick was appointed as permanent manager. But despite German Mourinho’s efforts to fortify United, the same issues exist. There is a lack of scoring opportunities, as well as a sluggish midfield and a frail mentality.
With the exception of his Champions League match against Atletico Madrid, Rangnick has not faced any top-tier opposition thus far on the calendar year 2018. His team, on the other hand, has been unable to capitalize on the situation, winning only two of their last seven games. If you look at their record on paper, you’d expect them to be picking up at least five victories, and perhaps as many as six, given the kind of opponents they’ve faced.
Now, the looming presence of the City is palpable. United have only lost six games all season, whilst this club has dropped just six points, with a further eight draws thrown in for good measure.
Fears are raised that things will turn ugly once more, with United failing to perform well against clubs they should be beating easy and now having to face the finest players in the world. However, the manner in which City have conducted themselves in recent weeks may provide a glimpse of optimism for the future.
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In the derby against Manchester United, Man City must emphasize the magnitude of the task facing Ralf Rangnick’s team.
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Manchester United could appoint a permanent manager this weekend, according to reports.
Initially, it appeared that Pep Guardiola’s team would resume their winning ways following the winter break after winning all four of their first four games back by an aggregate score of 15-1, but they encountered a slight speed bump.
Tottenham Hotspur managed to defeat Manchester City despite losing to Southampton and Wolves before the match and then losing to Burnley and Middlesbrough afterwards. The final result was decided in dramatic fashion once more, with a last-minute winner.
In terms of overall performance, it was certainly City’s worst outing of the season so far, as they were woefully inadequate defensively and much below their typical imperious best going forward – but everyone has bad days. Perfection is difficult enough to obtain in the first place, let alone maintain throughout time.
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However, the performance seemed to have shaken them a little, knocking them off their game just enough that things aren’t quite clicking like they used to. While they have won their next two matches, which serves as a cautionary tale for what is to come, they have not been convincing victories.
They were placed under a lot of pressure against an Everton side that hasn’t looked very impressive under Frank Lampard. They seemed a little nervous at times. They were unable to get into their customary rhythm. A dreadful Michael Keane error provided them with the opportunity for Phil Foden to score in the 82nd minute, and then an even worse refereeing error prevented the Toffees from earning a late penalty. They were fortunate to come away with the victory.
Midweek in the FA Cup, City faced Peterborough United, and once again it took them a while to figure out who they were up against. Despite the fact that the Posh are now rooted to the bottom of the Championship, they were able to get the better of the Blues with long balls in behind and quick attacks. Just after the half-hour mark, Peterborough had two excellent chances to take the lead, and if they had converted either of them, an inconceivable upset could have taken place.
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Ralf Rangnick delivers Manchester United a message of ‘continuity’ on how to catch Manchester City.
At the end of the night, goals from Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish finally shattered their resolve, but it was far from the pleasant night that many might have predicted. Three games in a row in which City were out of their depth and lacked confidence.
The ability to win when not performing at your peak is a characteristic of a good team, and given the way City go about their business, it may be terrifying for United to believe that they will be able to return to their peak anytime soon. In spite of this, there has been a little window of weakness during the previous two weeks, which should inspire some optimism in the United States. They have enough talent to compete with City on a given day, even if they are unable to do so over the course of a season.
When you consider that Manchester United has a strong recent record at the Etihad, having won their last three games there, an unexpected result is much more likely.
Manchester United were completely outplayed from the start, as they completed less than half the number of passes as their opponents, controlled only 32% of the ball, and mustered only a single shot on goal.