As evening loomed over a largely uneventful winter deadline day, football fans across the globe waited on tenterhooks for something big to happen. And boy did they get it, as Manuel Pellegrini confirmed he would be leaving Manchester City at the end of the current season. Soon after that, his club announced the worst-kept secret in football: the much-lauded coach Pep Guardiola was to be his replacement.
And suddenly, the city of Manchester became even more divided.
City supporters couldn't help but express their sheer delight at the appointment; they knew it was a footballing decision that could shape European football for years to come.
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It was certainly a contrasting reaction from United fans, who blamed everything from the vice-chairman of the club, Ed Woodward, to the sheer mind-numbing inertia that seemed to have gripped the very foundations of their club. They argued that the United hierarchy seemed content raking in the money for the short-term, rather than carefully planning for the future.
There is no doubting the fact that United have let slip the man who would have turned their fortunes around, and potentially guaranteed them a league title within the next three years. And the question is now very much there to be asked: are United now the smallest team in Manchester?
City confirmed in their statement that they had indeed opened negotiations with Guardiola during 2012, roughly the time when United would have prepared to enter their transitional period post-Sir Alex Ferguson. It is worth wondering if the club moved quickly enough for the Spanish coach, and if they didn't, why not?
The decision to snub Guardiola, who had won all possible competitions up for grabs during his stint at Barcelona, and instead opt for David Moyes, under Ferguson's recommendation, is one that football analysts will be scratching their heads about for years. Ferguson's poor team building for the future, coupled with his meddling in the appointment of Moyes, has forced United into needing expensive rebuilding.
And this has allowed City to slowly overtake them. Both in terms of planning for future seasons and squad depth. The so-called noisy neighbours have only improved under the reigns of Roberto Mancini, and now Manuel Pellegrini.
City have the chance to win four trophies during Pellegrini's final matches of the season, and this is a stark contrast to Manchester United, who seem to be reviewing Dutch manager Louis van Gaal's contract on a weekly basis. Ten years ago the roles would have been very much reversed, and this does nothing but place emphasis on United's gradual decline.
As City supporters rejoiced at the news of their appointment, United fans wondered what the future held for them. With a very slim chance of winning the FA Cup and Europa League this season, Van Gaal is not expected to see out the remainder of his three-year contract, which expires at the end of 2016/17. Instead, United are expected to bring in a replacement. But both experts and pundits alike are unsure about who it will be. Many names have been thrown into the ring, including the likes of Laurent Blanc and Massimiliano Allegri. But only two seem to be consistently mentioned.
These are the current assistant manager, Ryan Giggs, and former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.
Giggs would bring knowledge about Ferguson's successful style of play, but could be guilty by association, as he has been ever present during the failed tenure of David Moyes, and now Van Gaal's topsy-turvy reign.
However, United fans seem split about the potential hiring of Mourinho, as he seems to bring unnecessary baggage with him wherever he goes. High profile spats with players at both Chelsea and Real Madrid have left United unsure about taking the risk, as they do not wish for their club's reputation to be tarnished.
But it seems like a risk worth gambling on. It is indisputable that Mourinho is a proven winner, under the same mould of Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola himself. But while United linger around under the questionable management of Van Gaal, City continue to drive ahead into the future.
The appointment of Guardiola is just the beginning, as he has the potential to make transfers City fans would only have dreamt about in the not-too-distant past. However, Mourinho potentially being hired by United not only seems to level the playing field, so to speak, but would be guaranteed to whet the appetite of all football enthusiasts.
So to answer the earlier question, currently City are the largest team in Manchester, and unless the United hierarchy undertake the biggest shake-up of a club in recent footballing history, it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
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