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Manchester derby: History of cup clashes


Manager Watch: Mourinho vs. Guardiola

Manager Watch
 By David Mooney

Manuel Pellegrini has taken City backward and deserves the sack

Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United summed up everything that's wrong with Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City this season.

Some supporters weren't even disappointed at losing a derby match; such is how numb they're feeling in Pellegrini's final year in charge. Many are now questioning whether their tickets will be renewed next season, even with the appeal of Pep Guardiola's arrival in the summer. He will have a far-bigger-than-anticipated rebuilding job on his hands.

The club would have few options if they decided to sack Pellegrini, but would many City fans really complain if he were removed now, based on his current run of form?

City's Champions League future is hanging in the balance, with a daunting quarterfinal against Paris St-Germain next, and it seems the only factor keeping the Chilean in his job is that his successor has already been appointed and it's incredibly difficult to find a decent interim for eight matches.

City were slow, disorganised, careless, dull and toothless in the Manchester derby. Worst of all, they couldn't respond to the setback following Marcus Rashford's opening goal, and they brought all of their problems on themselves. In the past 19 league games where they've been trailing at half-time, City have gone on to lose 18. The other was a draw.

With the chance to send a message to the chasing pack in the race for the top four and beyond -- a title challenge looks incredibly far-fetched, admittedly -- City blew it. Instead, they announced to West Ham and Manchester United that they're there for the taking. Champions League football for one of those clubs is a real possibility next season.

City fans are now praying for the campaign to be over and that their club can scrape over the line in fourth, but the evidence suggests they'll struggle.

Pellegrini's men had the title wrapped up in the eyes of many fans and pundits after winning their opening five matches without conceding a goal. They had played the best football and were picking teams apart for fun. In their 25 matches since, they have picked up just 36 more points. Leicester, the league leaders, have managed 55.

How has it come to this? Pellegrini's team are grimly clinging on to fourth position in the table, 15 points off the summit and in the Champions League qualification zone by only a point, thanks to a dubious last-minute Cesc Fabregas penalty in Chelsea's 2-2 draw with West Ham on Saturday.

The title had been City's to lose, and boy, have they lost it in some style. The most galling part of their current predicament is that, without that start to the season, Pellegrini's side would be midtable quality at best, and with the way they've played, nobody could argue with such a position.

It's a joke that City haven't won back-to-back Premier League matches since the middle of October, but when looking at the remaining fixtures, there's a distinct possibility that Pellegrini's side won't manage the feat again before the end of the season.

City are now in a fight to finish in the top four and provide Champions League football for the incoming Pep Guardiola.

Their record against their rivals is laughable. They have picked up just three points against the top six, courtesy of draws with Leicester, West Ham and Manchester United. All three of those draws have come on the road; perhaps more damning is that City have lost all four matches they've played against top-six sides at the Etihad.

With Arsenal still to come, there's a fair chance that'll be a full house come May, providing City stay in the top six, of course. On top of that, there have been five home defeats this season, which is as many as the past four campaigns combined.

For many, a defeat to Manchester United would hurt, but some fans didn't even have it in them to feel that bad about it. Many saw a wretched performance coming; it had a damning inevitability about it.

Louis van Gaal's team have been widely criticised for how poor they have been this season, yet they had few problems at the Etihad. In fact, they looked like a fairly competent team and the home side appeared to be the ones who had been mocked for months on end. If anything, Pellegrini's side have been getting away with it for some time.

Van Gaal has done more with the tools at his disposal than Pellegrini has done with his. For how bad they've been, at least United look capable of playing better than the sum of their parts from time to time.

Despite progress in the Champions League and three trophy wins in his three-year tenure, City have gone backward under Pellegrini. Confidence is at an all-time low, and 2015-16, just like 2014-15 before it, feels like such a missed opportunity.

David Mooney is ESPN FC's Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney


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