Monday, April 22, 2024

Huge gulf in class


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Man City’s 3-1 win against Man United provides reality check for Jim Ratcliffe

Manchester, March 4: Good luck trying to knock Manchester City off its perch.
With new investment and renewed hope, Manchester United fans have been encouraged to believe the good times will return. That great revival felt as far away as ever after a humbling 3-1 loss to City in the Premier League, which could have been even worse on Sunday if not for a spectacular miss from Erling Haaland and a series of saves from United goalkeeper Andre Onana.
“This team is legendary,” City manager Pep Guardiola said afterward.
The same cannot be said for United after a 16th defeat in all competitions this season and its 11th loss in the league. The latest setback delivered another blow to Erik ten Hag’s hopes of securing Champions League qualification, with his team in sixth and 11 points off fourth-place Aston Villa.
City, meanwhile, marches on in its three-pronged defence of the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.
“Don’t forget – City, at this moment, is the best team in the world,” Ten Hag said.
Such words are likely to offer little comfort to United fans after another defeat to its cross-city rival. The 192nd Manchester derby is also likely to have been a chastening experience for Jim Ratcliffe, who recently bought a 27.7% stake in the club and vowed to end City’s domestic dominance.
Despite leading at halftime through a stunning goal from Marcus Rashford, United had no response when Phil Foden struck twice in the second half and Haaland made amends for an earlier miss from point blank range to seal the win.
This had been a chance to make an early statement under the regime of British billionaire Ratcliffe whose investment has secured him control of the club’s football operations.
Instead it highlighted the gulf between the rivals.
Ratcliffe’s mission statement to knock City off its perch was a nod to former United manager Alex Ferguson’s vow to do likewise to a once dominant Liverpool.
United has fallen a long way behind both City and Liverpool since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, having failed to win the title since then.
By contrast, City, which is backed by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and guided by Guardiola, has gone on to become one of the most powerful teams in world football. It has won five of the last six league titles and last year won the Champions League for the first time.
City looks well-placed to defend all of its trophies, with victory against United extending its current unbeaten run to 19 games in all competitions.
If United had hoped to dent City’s pursuit of a record fourth-straight Premier League title, instead it only served to boost its rival’s morale ahead of next week’s top-of-the-table clash at leader Liverpool, which beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 on Saturday to stay out in front.
“It is about us. We can’t control what Liverpool or Arsenal, Aston Villa or other contenders do, it is about us,” Guardiola said.
“We do what we have to do to win today, next Wednesday and Sunday.”
Ten Hag has a job on his hands just to try to salvage the season after losing for a fourth time in five games against City since being hired by United in 2022.
Despite an encouraging first year in charge, he has endured a troubled second season.
The FA Cup is United’s only realistic chance of silverware, while Champions League qualification is looking increasingly unlikely.
Ten Hag, though, believes there have been positive signs.
“This year we are really progressing and you have to get some points back. Everyone can beat everyone and things can quickly turn around,” Ten Hag said.
“We have to go into another final and we have to try and get closer to them.” There are expected to be a number of changes under Ratcliffe, with Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth expected to be brought in, while former City executive Omar Berrada has been hired as CEO.
There has been no indication from United that Ten Hag’s position is under threat, but Ratcliffe has made his ambitions clear.
“Every time you don’t win a game it is a damage at this club,” United captain Bruno Fernandes said.
“We know what this club demands and we want to win the games we are involved in. We didn’t get the three points today but there’s still a long way to go.” (AP)


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