MAnchester (dpa) – Just seven kilometers between Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. Football clubs are neighbors in the Premier League table too. However, not only are there 13 points, but there are worlds between the contenders.
Man City is in a high mood, is close to their seventh championship title and may reach the Champions League final for the first time. United have one match in the Europa League final and are likely to be the runners-up, but the atmosphere is toxic. This had an impact on City’s championship.
“We can put the champagne in the fridge. It hasn’t opened yet, but think about it,” Man City coach Pep Guardiola said on Saturday after the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. Even Man City might have a toast on Sunday. Had United lost the local rivals to Liverpool, City would not have been sported by the club. But it didn’t get to that.
The match at Old Trafford was canceled after angry Manchester United fans stormed the stadium a few hours before kick-off and stormed the lawn – a protest against United’s owners spiraling out of control. The partisans shouted loudly, “The Glazers are out.” The abandoned plans for the European Super League, of which Man United were one of the initiators, were the latest reason. The fan frustration of the Glazer family runs deeper and is shared by club icons such as former pro Gary Neville.
“Behind the scenes, the stadium is rusty and crumbling,” said Neville, now a television expert, visibly disturbed Sunday at Sky Sports. “They haven’t reached the Champions League semi-finals in ten years. We haven’t won the league with Manchester United in eight years.” Neville & Co. blames billionaires Joel and Avram Glazer, who only care about their own profits and who don’t care about the club.
So Neville expressed his understanding of the fan protest, although he did not want to agree to the riots in the grass. Liverpool star Jimmy Carragher and former Manchester City player Mika Richards also criticized the Glazers. “There are so many businesses you can make money with,” said Richards, “so why do you have to tear apart life and spirit from a club with so much history?”
There are no such problems with the neighbors, although Manchester City also wanted the Super League. The fact that the club is owned by Abu Dhabi doesn’t bother the majority of fans in the least – because the performance is correct. Man City just won the League Cup for the fourth time in a row. The almost certain championship title is the third in four years under Pep Guardiola. And now the long-awaited dream could come true.
With an impressive 2-1 victory in the semi-final first leg at Paris Saint-Germain, Guardiola’s side created the best conditions for the club’s first final in the club’s history at home. City turned the game in Brenzenpark after an early disability, with Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez scoring two valuable away goals.
However, the Parisian stars around Neymar and Kylian Mbappe did not qualify for the final. “I will be the first warrior who fights for the team,” Neymar declared militarily on club television. It will likely be determined whether Mbappe, who was injured in the calf in the first leg, will be able to attend Etihad Stadium on short notice. Coach Mauricio Pochettino was optimistic.
Guardiola called on Manchester City to provide a “near perfect” performance against Paris Saint-Germain before the historic week. “Everyone knows we’re seeing something special here,” said the coach. “But we have to do our job.” The champagne stays in the fridge at least until the second leg against Chelsea on Saturday.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210503-99-448858 / 2