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The Libero - United no longer provide benchmark for City

Published: 10 Nov 2010 - 09:31:52

You can bet your bottom dollar that Manchester City players will be fired up for tonight's derby clash with United, even more so given the possibilities arising from the ever-diminishing gap between the two sides.

Victory at Eastlands will see Roberto Mancini's side draw level on points with their bitter local rivals and go some way to avenging that brace of heartbreaking, last-gasp defeats in the Premier League last season.

But in the event of a win, while it would undoubtedly be a sweet one, City will only claim local bragging rights from it - as far as being a barometer of success, United are no longer the benchmark.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side still were last season, when someone at City thought it would be a good idea to crank up hostilities between the two clubs by posting that now famous banner carrying the image of Carlos Tevez in Manchester city centre.

It was intended as an inflammatory jibe at the team ambitious City - and most others - clearly wanted to emulate. It worked, although City failed to back up their pomposity with victory over United or any silverware, making the whole exercise now look rather hollow - indeed filled with nothing but hot air.

But another summer of immense Sheikh-funded expenditure has put City in a position where they should no longer have to look up to their more illustrious neighbours with a sense of awe - and post an advert to get their point across.

United have in their own way also contributed to the shift in attitude in Manchester. While City's star has risen funded by the bottomless pockets of Sheikh Mansour, United, under the tight fist of the Glazer family, have at best stagnated and at worst declined.

United's frugal transfer policy has hit them where it hurts and with the core of their squad nearing the end of their careers, Ferguson's side is nowhere near what it once was. The manager may laud the talents of youngsters such as Javier Hernandez, Bebe, Gabriel Obertan, Federico Macheda, Chris Smalling and the Da Silva twins, but without meaning to sound like a Match of the Day pundit, United won't win anything this season with them regularly playing in the side.

If City harbour genuine hopes of becoming a title contender, as they must do, it is Chelsea who they should be measuring themselves against, not United's ageing stars and up-and-coming colts.

And with one win already under their belt against the champions this season, City need not get too bogged down by events in their games against United. Three points will be as important as the spoils of any game, but defeat will by no means indicate a failure to have made progress.

City have already proved they have by beating the real yardstick of success, Chelsea, and if they can just work out how to sustain that kind of form against the so-called lesser sides over the course of the season, United might just become an insignificant local nuisance before too long.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.

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