Man Utd transfer mess: Haaland 'trolls' Woodward while Man City reap rewards of spectacular recruitment

James Robson
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Gabriel Jesus scored two and won a penalty - but still can’t be sure of starting against Manchester United on Wednesday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, meanwhile, was most recently linked with an emergency loan move for Islam Slimani.

And Erling Haaland just seems to be trolling Ed Woodward every time he touches the ball.

This is the state of the battle of Manchester in 2020.

Jesus is not the finished article, but would walk into United’s team, with or without the injury crisis that currently grips Solskjaer’s squad.

But his inclusion in Manchester City’s routine demolition of Fulham most likely means Sergio Aguero will come back into Pep Guardiola’s starting XI for their Carabao Cup semi final second leg against United.

Ditto for Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, who we’re unused substitutes on Sunday.

How Solskjaer can only dream of such resources. And even taking into consideration injuries to Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay, the gulf in quality between the Manchester rivals is beyond question.

No wonder Solskjaer was so desperate to secure a deal for Haaland this month, with the Norwegian’s five goals in two substitute appearances for Borussia Dortmund evidence of the quality United are in such need of.

If United’s current predicament is the consequence of making a mess of one transfer window after another, City’s squad is evidence of what happens when you get recruitment right.

They’re certainly not infallible on that front - Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor are just a couple that didn’t work out, while Guardiola, himself, misjudged the signing of Nolito in his first summer.

But when City wanted to make an impact quickly they recruited truly transformational players.

Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Aguero.

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They are still reaping the rewards of that spectacular recruitment drive. And the wave of spending that saw De Bruyne, Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Ederson and Aymeric Laporte head to City has yielded an incredible haul of five of the last six major domestic trophies.

On Wednesday they can move to within one game of making it six out of seven - even if the Premier League title is already out of their reach.

Few expect Solskjaer to mastermind an epic comeback at the Etihad - he simply doesn’t have the players. And even if Bruno Fernandes or - ahem - Slimani were at his disposal, his chances would reside somewhere between slim and none.

City have endured their own crisis of sorts this season - but it’s all relative.

In the world of Guardiola, where titles are almost considered a given, you just don’t expect to be 16 points off the pace at this stage of the season, having played a game more.

Yet, with one foot in the final of the EFL Cup, through to the fifth round of the FA Cup and into the last 16 of the Champions League, would anyone bet against this being another trophy-laden campaign?

United, meanwhile, head to the Etihad grateful they still have a lottery winner’s chance of an upset - and hoping to escape without humiliation.

That’s the state of the battle of Manchester in 2020.

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