Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Where Did It All Go Wrong? ; DERBY SPECIALAN UNDERWHELMING SEASON FROM BOTH SIDES MEANS PRIDE IS THE MAIN PRIZE FOR CITY AND UNITED TOMORROW

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Where Did It All Go Wrong? ; DERBY SPECIALAN UNDERWHELMING SEASON FROM BOTH SIDES MEANS PRIDE IS THE MAIN PRIZE FOR CITY AND UNITED TOMORROW

Article excerpt

EVERY Manchester derby of late - from Wayne Rooney's winner and a bulldozing Marouane Fellaini to Vincent Kompany's header and the 6- 1 - has felt significant.

Even October's meeting was between the country's top two title contenders at the time.

Yet neither team approaches tomorrow's game with confidence or conviction.

Both sides have seen their seasons fall off a cliff - all the 171st Manchester derby will be good for is influencing who hits the ground first.

How has it come to this? The managers must bear the brunt of the disappointment, and not just because they are wheeled out to face the press the most.

Louis van Gaal, seemingly on a one-man crusade to prove his point that domestic domination lies in the past, has stripped his squad of competition and his team of personality.

Curiously for a coach with an aversion to urgency or excitement going forward, the Dutchman enjoys the Russian roulette-style tactic of seeing how often he can use players out of position without it blowing the team to smithereens.

Manuel Pellegrini's troops have barely demolished any sides since their emphatic start to the season.

Gameplans seem to have rarely amounted to more than hoping that Roberto Mancini's signings are fit and in the mood.

Injuries have helped neither side - a necessary excuse however rubbish it always sounds.

City have been unable to call on that Mancini core at the same time for almost the entirety of the season, and an increase in absentees in January came at just the wrong time with the FA Cup kicking in and Pellegrini and the League Cup semi-final to hurdle.

have made mediocre, dismay is across Simon Samir Nasri and Kevin de Bruyne remain sorely missed in an attack that has been too often lacking creativity, especially given David Silva's struggles with form and fitness.

At Old Trafford, the same can be said for Luke Shaw, and the sheer numbers Van Gaal has been without for some games have clearly affected the team. …

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