You look across the city and see your once-mighty neighbours brought down to heel. Chaos engulfing the once-fearsome Manchester United. The manager in peril and the January transfer window looked towards like a safe harbour on stormy seas.
United have been ravaged by injuries this season but even still, they go into the new year market needing reinforcements in at least three different positions and, at present, have little budget to sign them with due to FFP. City, meanwhile, are sitting pretty, knowing full well they have little to do in January.
The Blues rarely conduct business in the cattle market that is the mid-season window, with selling clubs holding all the cards and prices going up accordingly. Maximo Perrone was signed earlier this year but that was hardly an earth-shattering signing.
Instead, you have to go back to the signing of Aymeric Laporte from Athletic in 2019 for the last time City brought in a significant addition to Pep Guardiola&aposs first-team squad. That worked out pretty well but it didn&apost change the club&aposs mind. January is a free-for-all they try to keep out of.
Thanks to their excellent planning and recruitment in the summer months, they more often than not are able to do so. But that doesn&apost mean there won&apost be business going the other way and City do have just one dilemma ahead of the new year.
What to do with Kalvin Phillips.
The midfielder&aposs debut season at the Etihad was such a non-event that many expected him to leave in the summer. Yet, Phillips committed himself to the club early on and made it clear he would not be going anywhere.
It was a brave stance to take when it was already obvious minutes would continue to be limited, a realisation that must have become starker when Matheus Nunes was recruited. It didn&apost take long before Phillips admitted he was considering his future.
“I know that I need to be playing games and competing every weekend. I&aposm going to have to make a decision on [my future] over the next months,” he said in October. “Gareth just says that for me to keep my spot I have to be playing games. That&aposs what I want to do. I have agreed with Gareth on that.
“I want to play football and want to play as much as possible. Over the last year-and-a-half I haven&apost been able to do that due to injuries and [other factors]. It&aposs something I am going to have to think about. Hopefully my chance does come but if it doesn&apost then I will have to make other decisions as well.”
At this stage, a move would clearly be the best for Phillips personally. Even when Rodri was suspended he couldn&apost muscle his way into the starting XI in the Premier League. If he can&apost play when the person he is backup to is unavailable, when will he ever?
A move in January, be it on loan or permanent, should see his time on the pitch increase exponentially. Which is what every footballer wants.
But would it be the right move for City? Phillips may have a lowly rank in the pecking order but he remains a senior member of a very small squad. The number of injuries that have suddenly struck during the international break is a timely reminder that a crisis can emerge from nowhere.