After Manchester United’s sorry showing against Liverpool a fortnight ago, there was talk of just how many Manchester City would put past them in the next game at Old Trafford.
Then City went out of the League Cup they have dominated in recent years, losing at home to Crystal Palace. But Man United won at an admittedly poor Tottenham, and Cristiano Ronaldo rescued them twice (again) away to Atalanta. Man City on its part, woke up to cruise past Bruges.
In theory, the 186th Manchester derby is set up to go the way of many recent ones, with eight of the last 11 ending in away wins. City are a better oiled, smoother-running machine, with all of their parts (generally) working well together.
But… in theory, a 36-year-old footballer wouldn’t be able to consistently do the things Cristiano Ronaldo keeps on doing, including effectively ‘carrying’ one of the world’s biggest clubs.
He scored in the last derby he played in, a 2-0 win at Old Trafford in which Carlos Tevez got the other before jumping ship, against a City team whose biggest star was Robinho – or possibly Stephen Ireland.
The world has changed since. A lot.
United’s win over Tottenham last weekend was a good result but Spurs were absolutely hopeless. Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Atalanta was a better gauge of where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are at as a team.
It was United’s ‘big three’ of Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes who did for Tottenham and scored in the Champions League too, but they shipped some bad goals in Italy.
Cristiano Ronaldo, 36, can become the oldest goalscorer in a Premier League Manchester derby, surpassing Paul Scholes, who netted at the Etihad Stadium on 17 April 2010 aged 35.