A game against Manchester United is always a huge contest for Manchester City — and vice-versa. But the game on Tuesday has an extra added importance for the blue side of Manchester as they attempt to hunt Chelsea down in the race for the Premier League title. City have three games in hand on the leaders; they’ve had them sat in their back pocket for a while now, and finally the time has come to play one of those games. This is no time for slip-ups, though, and no time to lose to the enemy — if ever there was one.
For all their extravagant goalscoring this season, City still have so much work to do to get their hands on the Premier League trophy. Three games in hand and only six points behind sounds like a good equation if you’re a City fan; win the three games and move ahead of Chelsea, but the run-in they have to close the season is such a difficult one. It starts with United and then leads into Arsenal, Liverpool, Southampton and Everton all before the season ends. They might just need more points to play with than they currently have.
That, though, is exactly what makes the game against United that much more important for City. They’ve had a good record at Old Trafford in recent seasons, and United are not exactly flying this year. City need to cash in now, considering the fixtures they have still to come. United have picked up in the last two games, but they’re still way off the level we’re used to seeing them at. City must fancy their chances of a win if they are at their best for the game.
And they should be, really. This is the moment you have waited for if you’re a City player, surely. If they can safely negotiate their way through this game and then the Arsenal game on Saturday, they would be in a great position. It’s a tough ask, of course, but to be champions it is tough — it’s not a gift. If City beat United, the euphoria of beating their rivals will be obvious, but the importance of a win, of sorts, over Chelsea could be the most crucial — another game gone, no ground given.
That’s what it’s about right now. City know their path to the trophy; it’s just whether they’re good enough to walk down it or not. The next month or so will give us a better indication of that, starting with the derby against United. City should cash in now, though, while they can. If they don’t, they might lose more than just the derby — it could be the league too.