It wasn’t that long ago when a Manchester United versus Manchester City match was nothing more than an afterthought. But ever since the Abu Dhabi Group purchased City from former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2008, the team has become the perennial thorn on the side of their crosstown rivals.
This rivalry will hit fever pitch when the two English Premier League rivals square off on Monday at the Etihad Stadium, a match that carries implications not just on the EPL standings, but also on the record books.
United could have avoided all this drama if they had just played to their form in recent weeks. But after a commanding eight point lead on the standings only a few weeks ago, United squandered a lot of it, thanks to a shocking 2-1 loss to Wigan Athletic and more egregiously, giving up a two-goal lead to Everton at Old Trafford, settling instead for a 4-4 draw. Combine that with three City wins against West Brom, Norwich, and Wolverhampton and that once in surmountable eight-point lead has been cut to three with three games left.
So really, it’s no surprising that folks from England have taken a Super Bowl-like interest into the match. If City wins, they draw even with United on the standings but take first place due to a superior goal-difference ratio. For United, the name of the game is to win, or at the very least, draw against their crosstown rivals. Either scenario would put the Red Devils comfortably in first, and unless something completely historic happens, the title comes back to Old Trafford.
The last time these two teams met in Old Trafford, City completely destroyed their rivals, running away with a 6-1 dismantling over United proved City’s equal-standing against their big brothers. If the Citizens can replicate that performance in their home turf – they’re a spotless 16-1-0 at the Etihad – then expect a barnburner of a match that will be watched, at least according to the EPL, by over 650 million people in over 190 countries.
Read that again: 650 million people in over 190 countries.
Yeah, no pressure on these guys, right?
Sportsbooks have also taken serious interest in the match considering the stakes that are involved for both teams. With momentum on their side and home field advantage, Manchester City is a slight favorite to upend their crosstown rivals with 6/5 odds to beat Manchester United. On the red side, oddsmakers have given United 12/5 odds to score the upset. A draw, something United will be looking for, hits with equal odds (12/5) with a United win.
There’s no question that whoever wins this match will be poised to win the English Premier League title, something that seemed implausible only a few weeks ago when United was comfortably ahead in the standings. But that’s the beauty of sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen until everything’s all said and done.
If it were that predictable, then sports books would be bleeding money hand over fist.