Your correspondent spent the eve of the derby in north-eastern France, enjoying some December 6th Saint Nicholas celebrations with various drunken Flems. I marvelled at the locals’ luck; in effect, they get two Christmases.
“I don’t even know who the prime minister is any more. I haven’t got a clue,” said Gareth Bale last month, adding, hopefully with knowing self-parody: “I follow the golf, that’s about it. I can tell you who’s No 1 in the world.”
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer may well experience first-hand tonight the gulf in class that currently exists between his Manchester United side and their treble-chasing neighbours but, regardless of the result, the club’s new manager is already searingly honest in his appraisal of their standing in the English game.
What began as a night of heady Champions League celebration for Manchester United at a revived and passionate Old Trafford ended with a dose of reality, administered by PSG, that suggests although the club may appear healed under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the shortcomings of his team are still very much there.
And then there were four. Four points between Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of a Premier League title race that was gifted new life at the start of a new year, with a victory last night that may one day look like the most significant of Pep Guardiola’s English career.
Just about the only piece of good news for Manchester United on Saturday evening was that they do not have to wait long for their next match. Jose Mourinho’s players will hope to use a Champions League meeting with Swiss side Young Boys to quickly get a dire goalless draw with Crystal Palace out of their system.
The rights and wrongs of Manchester City’s relationship with Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations have been well aired this week but, whatever the balance sheets may or may not tell us, the gulf in class between the city’s two clubs has never been more starkly demonstrated than it was for 90 minutes at the Etihad last night.
It’s the ultimate battle of philosophies in Manchester tomorrow. A classic clash of styles as the family pulling every stroke to pump as much money as possible into their club faces the family working every trick in the book to take it out.