The Champions League matches are underway, and it’s suddenly a very big night. Both United and City lost their opening games of this campaign, so it was big for them anyway. For City, losing to their biggest rivals for qualification in the home game was almost a catastrophe. For United, they’re not at a critical state just yet, but defeat tonight would put them there. And they’re already behind!
But overnight, with defeats for both Chelsea and Arsenal against weaker opposition, these two games have become less about City and United’s own qualification, and more about the state of English football itself.
We’ve become habituated to 4th place looking like the gates to the promised land, and treating it as something to boost Arsenal’s yearly trophy haul! But now that’s under threat from Italy.
Manchester United losing at home to Wolfsburg and City facing a tough test against a hard-working team with passionate support means that fans of any English club with top 4 aspirations will be looking on anxiously. Arsenal because they’re perennial 4th place hogs, Chelsea because their poor start might mean that 4th is the best they can do, and Liverpool and Spurs because they’ve been eyeing 4th place for years!
With Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay on the pitch for United, and with Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne on the pitch for City, the Manchester clubs have two of the most expensive attacks in history. So English football would look fairly stupid if they both lost tonight. Poor old Blighty!