It all comes down to this. Us or Newcastle. City v Manchester United. And only a win will do.
We’ve been here before, sort of. That was approximately the scenario in 2009, when relegation was a shoot-out between us or the Geordies, with England’s most decorated club our final day visitors. Or consider the parallels to 2009/10, when a second successive Premier League season that was supposed to be about advancement away from the relegation battle ended in a desperate bid to stay up. Actually, let’s forget that one. It didn’t end well.
This is unlikely to end well, we have to allow. You know the permutations, but a quick refresher. If City fail to win, we’re down. No other result can save us. Victory, and there’s a chance – but only if Newcastle fail to beat West Ham at St James’ Park. It isn’t promising, and there’s a reason City are rated at 1/6 to be relegated. It’s the most plausible outcome to what Sky are voyeuristically hyping as “Survival Sunday”.
So, to happier omens. May 24th has been a day of survival before, when City’s final day 1-0 defeat at home to Man Utd in 2009 mattered little as Newcastle accommodatingly took the final relegation place from us. But May 24th is more famous for events in 2008, perhaps still the greatest day in the club’s history. It’s the day to which we must turn for inspiration.
The match. Steve Bruce is likely to play the same XI that slid to defeat at Tottenham last week. Team selection issues will at least have not been overly excercising the City manager during this fraught week, with no obvious changes suggesting themselves. That’s not really the case for Man Utd, however. Secure in fourth, and requiring am improbable goal difference swing to catch Arsenal in third, they have little to play for, and we scour Twitter excitedly latching onto every probably spurious suggestion that tomorrow’s visitors may rest a few, try some kids, and so on. Certainly, after a disappointing though still improved season, they’ll want to go out on a high; but will they really be absolutely bursting to do so in the way City surely are?
We hope, we hope. Because past history offers little succour. City haven’t beaten Manchester United since 1974, with nine successive defeats having been experienced since. Even a 2-0 lead last season couldn’t be turned into a win. It’s daunting, but we’re at least been given a glimmer of hope elsewhere: City are 11/4 to win, a price that’s about half what it’d be any other time. Man Utd are still strong 5/4 favourites, while a draw is 23/10. But that price of 1/6 on relegation is inescapably bleak.
Come on City. At least go down fighting.