FAILIING to make the knockout stages of the Champions League was bad enough for Manchester United.
But, believe me, losing out on the Premier League title to Manchester City would hurt manager Alex Ferguson a lot more.
When he arrived at Old Trafford 25 years ago, he spoke of wanting to knock Liverpool off their perch.
United did that and they don't want to be toppled themselves — least of all by City.
If you ask me, though, United are favourites to win the title.
For me, they have the best squad in the country.
They are coping better with the players they are missing and I don't have any sympathy for City with Yaya and Kolo Toure being away at the African Nations Cup.
We keep being told football is a business but what other company would bring in an employee who could be absent for six weeks?
It's a vital time of the season and they have suffered.
Another positive for United is that they have the knowhow to win leagues. United's players know you do not always have to play brilliantly, you just have to be clever.
But I look at City's squad and there are only three players who have won league titles — Gael Clichy, Carlos Tevez and Owen Hargreaves.
Tevez and Hargreaves did it with United but are unlikely to figure so there is a real dearth of experience there for City — and I think it's showing.
A few weeks ago City were up at Sunderland and could have been 5-0 or 6-0 up, they were outstanding, but didn't show that killer instinct. What was worse was they didn't take a draw.
You can't win every game, but they went gung-ho and conceded a goal in injury time.
Then, during the week they lost at Everton and Roberto Mancini said he'd underestimated them.
It's the biggest mistake you can make in any sport... and to then admit it? Very strange.
I was surprised because I've been really impressed with Mancini as City manager.
Even if you think that, you have to keep it to yourself. You can say 'we had an off night', or whatever else but don't say that!
The real experienced managers, you might know what they're feeling but they keep it to themselves because they don't want to be telling everyone they made a blunder.
You have to look at the players too because if they think 'the manager is not at it today', then they have to feel it. Anyone who knows anything about football would tell you that Everton on a Tuesday or Wednesday is going to be a hard night.
I'm sure with all the experience they have, his staff of Brian Kidd and David Platt must have told them what it would be like at Goodison. Hopefully he is taking their thoughts on board.
United know what it's all about and that's why they're up there.
I know there's talk of there not being enough investment but that's not the case.
They brought in David de Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young in the summer. These lads didn't come for peanuts, you're talking £17million or £18m each.
Then you have the likes of Dimitar Berbatov who cost £30m and Wayne Rooney who cost £20m. Plenty of money.
United obviously have a policy now of signing younger players because they are trying to look at the bigger picture.
Chris Smalling is another example and I also think Danny Welbeck can be a top player, as can Jonny Evans.
I know Jonny's made mistakes but you get that with younger players.
It's been difficult for De Gea and goalkeeper is the hardest position to fill. I wasn't surprised United bought him and, technically, he's outstanding.
He's been at fault for a few goals but I look at the first one United conceded against Liverpool and I still think the lads around him can give him more support at set-pieces.
Peter Schmeichel and Edwin Var der Sar made loads of errors but what they could do was deal with it a bit better than a young player. We have seen other keepers come to United, drop a clanger and never really recover from it. We all remember Massimo Taibi. I don't want to compare keepers but believe it or not he was very good, we could see that on the training pitch.
His confidence was knocked by a couple of mistakes and couldn't recover but once De Gea is backed by the support of the keeping coach and manager, which I'm sure he will be, he'll be OK.
You have to remember that a lot of players have come and gone since losing the Champions League final to Barcelona last season.
I knew that night the manager would change things. Barcelona are the best team I've seen and they are the benchmark.
It's going to be hard for United to catch up. I'm not sure how they do it.
United fans will still want to see a big-hitter coming in every summer but I'm not so sure we will be seeing people coming in for £30m or £40m.
If I had the choice — assuming Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — were not available, I would go for Franck Ribery.
United were linked to him years ago and he'd fit in really well.
He's one of those players who can turn a tight game for you.
They already have somebody like that in Rooney.
He probably hasn't scored enough this season but this is the time of year he needs to come alive.
I think there's a bit more to come from him. The beauty about Wayne is that when you start questioning him, he generally pops up with some important goals.
Sure, he plays on the edge. I don't think you can change that — but you can curb it. I don't go along with the manager saying he could be another Gazza but he just needs to be more careful.
It also looks like Paul Scholes could make a contribution after coming out of retirement.
I was a little surprised he came back because part of the reason he quit was he was being left out of the big games.
And I don't judge him against Fulham or Bolton, I'll judge him on the bigger games.
If it was on his mind, he was right to come back to get it out of his system because he would not be able to do it any further down the line.
You are going to miss football until the day you die.
One man I don't see retiring any time soon is the manager.
Ferguson will be there for a number of years. Why not?
He looks well and if he's got that hunger, why go?
Putting City back in their place is enough to keep him focused.
from Sun Sport