Even by the rarified atmosphere of Manchester derbies, there will seldom have been so much on the line for both sides of the city when Manchester United hosts Manchester City on Wednesday.
For City, the Premier League title is at stake with Pep Guardiola’s men needing to win their remaining four matches to be sure of becoming the first side since United a decade ago to retain the title.Those days of dominance are long gone for the Red Devils with just a place in the top four and Champions League qualification their target.
However, United also have to restore some sense of pride after a 4-0 thrashing at Everton on Sunday.
The momentum and feel good factor built up by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first few months in charge has gone.
Solskjaer questioned the work rate and desire of some of his players on Sunday, making it clear that big changes are needed.
However, he is clinging to the hope that those he currently has to call on will be shocked into a short-term response.
Yet, there is a dilemma even for United fans keen to halt City’s rise.Should City fail to win at Old Trafford, Liverpool — historically United’s fiercest rivals — will be just three games away from a first league title in 29 years.
Liverpool have already set their highest ever points tally in the Premier League era of 88 to lead City by two points.
City’s quest for a quadruple of trophies fell short by the finest of margins as they lost on away goals to Tottenham in the quarter-finals of the Champions League last week.