United vs City: Are the Manchester clubs set for failure this season?

It’s no secret both Manchester Untied and Manchester City are not living up to the high expectations set by the fans, pundits and club in general so far this season. Both sides are currently outside the top four more than halfway through the domestic campaign, which is no where near where they expect to be, so are the two set for failure this season? Lewis Addley explores… 

Ten games into the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City things were looking like a foregone conclusion for the season ahead. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss looked to have bought his style of play to England with success, winning ten games on the bounce, but fast-forward to January and City are struggling in 5th place.

Things are not much different domestically for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United either. The Red Devils remain outside the top four and look a long way behind league-leading Chelsea.

Both clubs have reached the knockout stage in Europe, City in the Champions League and United in the Europa League, which surely will be the focus of their seasons respectively come the return of the competitions in a few weeks. United are on the brink of reaching the final of the League Cup, but that alone will not be enough to reduce the pressure on Mourinho, with more always expected of the Manchester giants.

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So are both of these clubs set for failure?

In a word, no. There are plenty of games for the league table to continue to change. But the competition for the top four is so intense that it is difficult, with current form in mind, to think both sides will make the cut. United had just began to pick up form but their consecutive draws suggest they’re still one step away from troubling the sides above them on a consistent basis.

City on the other hand seem to have no league form whatsoever, they’re fast becoming a side who look beatable from the off and Pep is going to have to change something. They’ve gone from having a powerful, tight backline to a nervy outfit who look like they will concede with every shot, something Claudio Bravo is picking up an unwanted affiliation for, having conceded the last six efforts on goal he has faced.

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As previously mentioned United are on track to reach the League Cup final but given the current nature of expectancy, that trophy alone is not enough for a title-chasing side. Both Manchester clubs are still challenging in the FA Cup, a tournament they are going to need to reach the latter stages in at least, such as the regard winning it is held in.

European action offers contrasting situations, City face PSG in the Champions League, while United drew Saint-Étienne in the Europa League. City’s performance last year was their best effort to date in the competition and given the strength of the sides they can pull in the latter rounds if they are to progress, winning it would be some feat, although not impossible given the quality of players available to Guardiola. 

United’s progression in the Europa League wouldn’t be something Mourinho is bothered by, if you’re to believe his stance on the competition, however winning it would guarantee them a place in the Champions League next season regardless of their league finish. With that in mind United have to take it seriously, no doubt they will.

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There is no doubt both Manchester clubs have the ability to win some silverware this season between them, but domestically it isn’t looking overly promising. With track-record in mind, many have been surprised with the struggles the two have endured in their first season. In the modern game transitional periods are becoming less and less acceptable, especially considering the amount of money that’s being spent on transfers. Perhaps not the first season of the Mourinho and Guardiola era their fans would have had high hopes for?

Is it too early for the word failure to be thrown around or have Mourinho and Guardiola not lived up to expectation so far? 

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Traditionally poor March could cost Spurs Champions League qualification

Tottenham have had a fairly successful season and optimism was flying high until Sunday’s League Cup Final defeat to Chelsea and elimination from the Europa League against Fiorentina three days earlier dampened the spirits.

Spurs can now solely focus all their attention on trying to secure a top-four Premier League finish as they’re also no longer competing in the FA Cup after they suffered a shock fourth round exit at the hands of Leicester City back in January.

The North London side welcome a Swansea team that will be a tough nut to crack at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night and Mauricio Pochettino has got a big task on his hands to try and motivate the players after such a disappointing week.

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A victory for Spurs in that fixture would go a long way to boosting the morale, but recent history makes for slightly worrying reading for those affiliated with the club.

The month of March has proved a stumbling block for Tottenham in the past, so they will need to improve on recent seasons at this time of year if they are to have any hope of finishing in any of the Champions League slots.

Tottenham’s Premier League results in March since 2011:

Tottenham's form in March

Tottenham have managed just four wins from the 15 games they’ve played in March over the last four seasons, picking up 16 points from a possible 45 available.

As it currently stands, Spurs are six points off Manchester United in fourth place, but they do have the advantage of having a game in hand because of their League Cup commitments at the weekend.

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Failure to beat Swansea would be a major blow for the Lilywhites as not only would they lose pace in the European qualification race, but the Swans would then only be one point behind them in eighth position, which could really pile the pressure on Pochettino’s men.

If Tottenham’s Premier League form in March doesn’t improve on recent years, then they could find themselves in real trouble to make the cut for the Champions League places.

Will Tottenham finish in one of the Champions League qualification spots this season?

Franck Ribery hints that MLS move could be on the horizon

Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery has dropped a hint that he would consider playing in Major League Soccer when his contract with the German giants expires in three years.

The highly-skilled French winger is one of the best players in Europe, and is currently in his eighth season with Bayern, looking to win his fifth Bundesliga title.

At 31, Ribery has plenty still to offer and with his contract with Bayern set to expire in 2017, the Frenchman has set his sights on a challenge outside of Europe to end his playing career.

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“Bayern and I are like a married couple. I bought us a house here. My son was born here. I raised my daughters here. They speak better German than me; articulate and grammatically perfect. I could play for another club in Europe but my heart is beating too much for Bayern.” he told German magazine Welt am Sonntag.

“But I could imagine going to the US, Qatar or Dubai for a new experience.”

With two new MLS franchises set to enter the league in 2017, one of whom will be the wealthy Los Angeles FC, Ribery could find himself a part of the rapidly growing soccer scene in America.

His wage demands will be high, but club’s such as LAFC will have the financial backing to make such a move possible, and it would certainly not do the league any harm.

Would you like to see Franck Ribery playing in MLS in a few years?