Opinion

Man City complete 'noisy neighbour' role reversal with latest derby thumping

Graeme Bailey
City fans enjoy themselves on Sunday
City fans enjoy themselves on Sunday / Getty | 90min
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Before Pep Guardiola's time at the Eitihad Stadium, Manchester City were branded ‘noisy neighbours’ by Sir Alex Ferguson – the legendary former Manchester United manager.

Ironically, in the years since Ferguson called time on his managerial career, the red side of Manchester has feebly handed over the power of the city to its sky blue rivals.

Although the geographical rivalry remains, there isn't much of a contest in the Manchester derby at present. Happy to finish fourth, happy to beat City maybe once a year; these are currently the markers for success at a once proud United, and it has already reached the point where a top-four placing this season would be a big achievement.

Sunday marked the 50th Manchester derby in the Premier League era, and the gap between these two English giants is gigantic - just as it was during the majority of United's years of dominance. The Red Devils have never been so far off their so-called ‘noisy neighbours’ this century.

This is no longer the biggest match in the calendar for the reigning Premier League champions.

The comfortable 4-1 victory over United on Sunday took City six points clear of title rivals Liverpool - their modern day foe both domestically and in Europe. The fact United are essentially an afterthought to City (and Liverpool), less than a decade after Ferguson handed over the reins of his beloved club, is almost unthinkable.

Sir Alex could never have imagined that United would become the noisy neighbours.

But the noises coming from Old Trafford are probably the biggest worry to anyone connected with the club; where is the hope? What is the plan?

Currently with a struggling interim boss, the hapless nature of the defeat at the Etihad demonstrated the scale of the task that awaits the new manager in the summer. As it stands in early March, United are almost as close to the relegation zone as they are to City and that is in no way an exaggeration of their plight.

While technically 22 points, the void between the Manchester clubs has never been bigger - and there is a distinct possibility that it will get worse before it gets better.

Asked about the gap to City after the match, Rangnick replied literally: "22 points, and second half showed it."

The evidence was there for all to see. While the first period was passable, the second-half performance was unacceptable from United; Rangnick's unorthodox 4-2-4 formation began to look disjointed and misshapen, and captain Harry Maguire's lack of discipline was striking. The awful defending and lack of togetherness speak to a broken team.

Former captain Roy Keane called it right: this display was a reflection of the club as a whole.

Many believed United might not be too far away from a title challenge when the season started following the arrival of the likes of Raphael Varane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho, but it has become more evident with each passing week that a near-complete overhaul is required.

There is a long, long road ahead for Man Utd to become competitive with their local rivals once again, and their supporters must brace for what could easily be a number of years in their 'noisy neighbour's' shadow.

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