Ander Herrera has insisted that Thursday’s Manchester derby serves as the biggest fixture of the Premier League season for Jose Mourinho’s men.
Sunday’s 2-0 win over Burnley narrowed the gap with fourth-placed Manchester City to just one point, meaning that victory at the Ethiad would see Manchester United claim fourth spot with five games left.
Pep Guardiola will be feeling the pressure after his side’s 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final – a result that officially consigned the Spaniard to his first ever season without a trophy as a manager.
And Herrera, speaking ahead of the game, acknowledged that this upcoming encounter was of paramount importance to both sides.
“It’s going to be the game of the season,” Herrera said.
“We are one point behind them and if we win, we have the chance to finish in the top four, but if they win, it will be very difficult for us.
“I don’t know the ‘winner takes all’ expression but it’s going to be a massive game. If one of us wins it, we are not going to lose a lot of games or make mistakes after that. It will be key.”
Mourinho has demonstrated on numerous occasions a propensity for taking maximal advantage of opponents under pressure. Take, say, that infamous Steven Gerrard slip game back in April 2014. This is the Portuguese’s specialty; a large portion of his success has been built on an ability to render a ‘must-win’ game miserably un-winnable for his opposite number.
And make no mistake, he will be salivating at the prospect of inflicting such trauma on Guardiola. The idea of the Spaniard, just days after losing out on another trophy, surrendering Champions League football to Mourinho – after many had predicted a stroll to the title – would be an unthinkably miserable prospect for Man City supporters.