Tonight, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola lock horns for the second time since they both arrived in Manchester to the waving of palm branches and songs of praise this summer.
Back in September, Guardiola’s City were on the crest of a wave and, despite Claudio Bravo’s desperate attempts to sabotage their performance, swamped the Red Devils in a 2-1 win which was far more convincing than the scoreline suggests.
However, since then, both teams have been on a downward trajectory.
City have gone five games without a win – the first time for Pep since 2009 – and United’s performances have been totally inconsistent. One minute, nullifying the significant threat of Philippe Coutinho et al at Anfield and the next being destroyed by that well-known attacker N’Golo Kante at Chelsea in a 4-0 thrashing.
So, with both “Messiahs” at a crossroads, the EFL Cup game tonight takes on new importance.
But is anyone actually bothered?
Mourinho himself seems to have other concerns, duly proclaiming that his life situation at the moment is a “disaster”. Surely the Manchester hotel scene isn’t that bad Jose?
The League Cup in the past has provided some important moments for Mourinho. Back in 2005, his first trophy as Chelsea manager was a League Cup, paving the way for an unprecedented run of success for his Stamford Bridge side.
He picked up the trophy again in 2007 before an acrimonious departure later that year. On his second coming, a League Cup victory against Tottenham in 2015 was a precursor to his his Chelsea side’s romp to the title. It meant an awful lot.
With that kind of background, and the caustic rivalry of these two clubs, maybe Mourinho will get himself psyched up the fixture after all.
As for Guardiola, it’s a bit early to speak about a crisis – they are still top after all – but for a serial winner who is used to having it all his own way this is certainly a tricky patch.
Having ousted and alienated some key players, the media are beginning to get on his back and he could do with a performance to turn it around this evening.
He though, is beginning to get frustrated with the sheer intensity of the English league and may rest players for tonight’s clash, suggesting he has other priorities.
So, with the two high-profile managers distracted, the prospect of key players not appearing (who knows, maybe we’ll even see the lesser-spotted Wayne Rooney if he’s fit), and a lack of momentum on both sides’ parts, does this game really matter?
Well, throw in last month’s feisty defeat for United, the need for both teams to get their seasons back on track and the historical rivalry of the two managers, it’s still definitely worth a watch.
I’ll certainly be tuning in.