It’s becoming harder to deny. This season has started terribly. Just six wins from our opening 14 games in all competitions is a dreadful run of results. Four wins from our last 12 is our worst run since 2009. Two wins from our last six home games unheard of in recent times. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but the season is in danger of fizzling out before it’s even got going.
Which makes this week’s games even more important than they already were, starting with Sunday’s derby with Manchester United at the Etihad. Ahead of the game, I had a chat with a very dear friend of mine to get the inside track on United. Darren Richman is a football writer for the Telegraph, has a film column with the Independent and is a United season ticket holder, and I asked him about why David Moyes was a failure and what he thought of Luis van Gaal.
The Moyes experiment just didn’t work out, did it? Why do you think that was?
It was like the First World War, there were a whole host of reasons but his appointment was probably the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand – the most significant. Gill and Ferguson leaving at the same time was a recipe for disaster, Moyes had done nothing to suggest he was good enough for such a big job, the players turned pretty quickly and the squad wasn’t in great shape.
Thoughts on Van Gaal at this early stage?
Obviously I like him because he’s funny and charismatic but I think some are overstating his excellence because they’re so relieved he’s here and he feels like a Manchester United manager (by which I mean like the one before Moyes, there have been plenty of other crap ones in our history). We’re playing better football but then we’ve bought some very good players and I’m not sure we’ve seen that much of a coherent “philosophy” at this point but no doubt that will come with time. At least going to games is fun again.
United have spent a lot of money this summer, but the squad still looks somewhat unbalanced to me. How much closer are you to getting back into the Champions League places?
I think we’ll do it. Need to buy a defender or two in January but there’s enough decent attacking players and enough teams struggling who we’ll be vying with that it’d be a major disappointment if we didn’t.
There have been a few new young players making first-team appearances this season. Which one has impressed you the most?
Definitely Tyler Blackett. I’d heard he was decent but nobody really expected him to be a regular in the first team by this stage. Necessity is the mother of invention and he’s only really got his chance because of injuries but, even though we haven’t defended brilliantly, he’s been pretty solid. And it’s not like he’s had Rio there to talk him through the games, something which he always did expertly with a younger partner.
Have you read Keane’s new book and, if so, what do you make of his comments about Fergie?
Not yet but it’s in the post. It’s all unsurprising to be honest. Weeks after Fergie’s book came out he said he was preparing his own and I suspected it would be pages and pages of diatribe like Morrissey with the court case but actually, from what I have read, it’s seemed like he’s harsher on himself than anyone else. What kind of self-flagellation he has in store after seeing his team lose to QPR lord only knows.
What have you made of City so far this season?
Erratic. In Europe, for whatever reason, it just hasn’t seemed to click. The home game with Roma really surprised me because I thought that’d be a pretty comfortable win. West Ham were terrific on the weekend and they’re having a great season but it has felt at times like either Aguero or Silva are going to produce a moment of magic or City might struggle. Mourinho must be lapping it up.
Pellegrini or Mancini?
Tough. I prefer Pellegrini as a bloke (bizarre Swedish ref rant aside) but the inferiority complex ended under Mancini. I reckon Pellegrini is probably a slightly better manager but there’s not a lot in it.
Combined City-United XI?
De Gea, Zabaleta, Kompany, Evans, Shaw, Toure, Di Maria, Silva, Herrera, Falcao, Aguero.
Lol @ me having more United players than City, clearly I’ve got it wrong. NB This was decided in a matter of seconds, no thought has been given to formation etc.
Tough one to call. Thought we played pretty well for periods against Chelsea but we’ve struggled away from home this season. 3-1 City.
Interview by Rob Pollard