Paul Vallely: Across the city, fans feel a shift in the balance of power

"Where were you when you were shit," Man Utd fans chanted the last time Man City played at Old Trafford.

The grammar was ambiguous but the accusation was clear enough: the ranks of the City supporters have been augmented by fair-weather fans since the gushings of Arab oil wealth allowed Manchester's second team to buy a raft of players of the calibre to mount a serious challenge to their cross-town rivals.

The chant was, for all its chippiness, a tacit acknowledgement that something significant has shifted in the psycho-geography of Mancunian culture in recent times. City, once regarded by United supporters as a comic irritant, have become a potent threat to the primacy of Old Trafford.

Today's derby is widely regarded in the city as the most important for some considerable time – or "ever" to succumb to the hyperbole of the local fanzine chatrooms. Victory for City could secure their grip on a place in Europe's top-flight next season; for United a win would keep their slipping Premier League hopes alive. But there is more to it than that.

Nor is this merely a case of the added needle brought to the fixture by the defection of that whirlwind of a striker, Carols Tevez, and the provocative "Welcome to Manchester" poster which City erected to mark the Argentine's arrival from United. A firm of bookies this week have tried to rekindle the outrage/glee that provoked with a new double-headed knocking-copy poster, in the teeth of attempts by the police to lower the temperature with a 2-mile alcohol exclusion zone around the ground and pre-match warnings to Tevez and his hot-tempered opponent Gary Neville after their previous on-pitch spats.

No, what has seized fans on both sides is a sense that the old balance is shifting. The patronage of City's new Abu Dhabi owners – said to own some nine per cent of the world's remaining oil reserves – is finally bearing fruit with the club clearly determined to spend whatever it takes to turn City into serious title challengers next season.

By contrast, United, who can look pretty ordinary when Wayne Rooney is injured, have four key players aged 35 or over, a mountain of debt inhibiting big spending to replace them, Ronaldo and Tevez, and a manager whose retirement looms. City are in the ascendancy and United feel on the cusp before decline, in a sport where momentum counts a lot.

Old stereotypes are being inverted. City, whose boast has always been that they were the real Mancs by contrast with a United fan-base which stretches from Highgate to Hong Kong, are now looking like a bunch of cosmopolitan galacticos with a management bent on challenging the international marketing machine which has been built round Old Trafford. By contrast United, ironically, have a larger number of home-grown players. And while Tevez is the finest of mercenaries, Rooney exudes the dedication of a fan in his commitment and naive enthusiasm. For many the world in Manchester feels on the brink of turning upside down.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea