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Shifting expectations

Laurence Griffiths

The first derby of the 2014/15 season is upon us then. The debate over team selection is raging over at Suffering Bruin's piece here (4-5-1 or 4-4-2? I actually think the letter with a very predictable starting XI, but I'm longer wide of the mark) and there is no doubt much biting of nails in the blue half of Manchester (and eleswhere) this evening given the results (and performances) of the past ten days or so.

A scan of the press here in the UK over the past forty-eight hours has seen plenty of pressure piled on Manuel Pellegrini & co. with terms such as 'crisis' and 'turmoil' liberally tossed around. Way, way over the top of course but there is no doubt that City are somewhat stumbling into the derby.

Amongst the many pieces you may have picked upon in the lead up to the game was this interesting piece from Simon Curtis in which he discussed the power shift that has taken place. For years of course City wore the mantle of the plucky underdog (heavily for the most part) with United's ascent following the creation of the Premier League the polar opposite of City's tragi-comedy descent.

How times change. But how quickly they have done so. Even 'noisy neighbours' and 'not in my lifetime' seems consigned to the history books now given City's clear advantage over the past three seasons or so - not only in terms of derby wins (five to one in the past six meetings) and trophies, but positioning within the game.

This is evidenced by the fact that any mention of pressure ahead of Sunday has focused on City. Chelsea's win this afternoon stretched the gap further, yet there is no mention of the gap between top spot and United should they lose tomorrow, only talk of whether the title will be beyond City's reach; the assumption being that the title has never been in United's.

And this is why regardless of City's performances of late, the expected result will be a City win. Despite United's franctic rebuilding this City side is simply the better one. Anything other than a win and it will feel like points dropped. Should United come away with a win would it be regarded as anything other than a shock result?

Shifting expectations indeed.