‘When in a top club, you are always one loss away from a crisis.’
Those were the carefully chosen words Vincent Kompany turned to when weighing in on the debate over Manchester United’s unfolding nightmare this season.
Just like him, his response was eloquent but direct, targeted but respectful. There is no discernible split between Kompany the brutish player and Kompany the fresh-faced manager, the one that now stalks the touchline and propels Burnley forward.
Having played for Manchester City for over a decade, Kompany has seen the ins and outs of a crisis and this week, he may be set to plunge United head-first into one.
Erik ten Hag’s side have fallen to four defeats from their past five games and seen any suggestion of a potential title challenge slump by the wayside. Indeed, their losses to Arsenal, Brighton and Bayern Munich were especially humbling.
Vincent Kompany will look to inflict further misery on Manchester United this weekend
Legendary former Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany is now in charge at Burnley
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Their schedule doesn’t get much easier, either. Next up are Kompany’s Clarets, a savvy outfit, albeit one struggling to find their feet. It speaks volumes about the prospects of both clubs, however, that a potential giant-killing awaits this weekend.
But should United lose, it would be no major shock. They are, after all, punch drunk.
He may not wish to admit it, at least not publicly, but Kompany would perhaps relish beating United more than any other team. During his time captaining City and spearheading their charge for titles, he symbolised the club’s rise and resistance.
Thanks in part to him, they became the Premier League’s status quo, its untouchable kings. Kompany tasted victory over United on no less than 10 occasions as a result.
Now, surrounded by a dugout instead of team-mates, he will look to get one over on them again, perhaps driven by last season’s Carabao Cup defeat. This next match will be his first locking horns with United in a technical area in the top-flight.
At City, Kompany won four league titles and multiple other trophies and helped usher in their era of dominance, dethroning United in the process. His rich history against the Red Devils, though, is made up of countless memorable moments.
His first two outings against them came in 2008-09, his first season with City.
During his time at the Etihad, Kompany, also captain of the side, lifted four league titles
Kompany played 90 minutes in the 1-0 and 2-0 defeats by United, both home and away. For the second match, he was deployed in a defensive midfield role before locking down his position further back and rendering himself undroppable.
He missed out on the infamous 4-3 defeat at Old Trafford in 2009, a game settled by Michael Owen’s last-gasp winner, and continued to face frustration in derbies. In fact, he was unable to win against United in his first six attempts in the league.
There would also be disappointment in the EFL Cup semi-finals in the same season.
Eventually, though, the blue floodgates opened.
Kompany started the 6-1 victory at United’s home ground in October 2011, adorned with the captain’s armband. On that occasion, City plunged their flag into the soil and claimed the bragging rights. The noisy neighbours had cranked up the volume.
The towering defender then singlehandedly altered the course of the enthralling title race in April, having risen highest to power home a header from a corner in the reverse fixture at the Etihad and secured City the most crucial of slender wins.
That left City needing two more wins to pip United to the trophy. Sergio Aguero’s clincher against QPR was undoubtedly the most decisive moment in the tussle between both powerhouses but without Kompany, it would not have been possible.
Incredibly, these results came just months after a defiant United mounted a comeback in the Community Shield. Despite City leading 2-0, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side rallied back on level terms and then pounced with a last-gasp winner.
The centre back started City’s infamous 6-1 victory over United at Old Trafford back in 2011
He also scored the only goal in the win over United that changed the course of the title race
Kompany endured a horror mix-up with goalkeeper Joe Hart, allowing Nani to race onto a hopeful punt forward and spark red pandemonium at Wembley.
However, in 2013-14, Kompany helped City to the double over United and played the full 90 minutes in both the 4-1 home win and comfortable 3-0 away victory.
Further triumphs arrived in 2014-15 at home and 2016-17 away, though the influential skipper missed out on the latter, a hard-fought 2-1 success, due to a groin injury.
City’s domination continued at full steam and United, a mirage of a once-great, all-conquering machine in their prime, slipped further back in their wing mirrors.
For Kompany, the cherry on top of this delectable cake came when he was able to toast City’s title success in 2018 in front of his United supporting in-laws.
City had been forced to be patient to hoist the trophy, with United fighting back from two goals behind to win 3-2 at the Etihad, a derby in which Kompany netted.
But after United’s shock loss to West Brom, City were crowned champions. Kompany witnessed the moment alongside his father-in-law and United fanatic, Paul McIntyre, who reluctantly congratulated the talisman despite his initial disappointment.
With Kompany rendering himself undroppable, City kickstarted their era of total domination
Kompany’s wife, Carla, was also present for the party, which was filmed by Amazon.
After the ‘All or Nothing: Manchester City’ cameraman asked McIntyre what the engraved words on his United strip read, Kompany quipped: ‘It says, “I live in the past”.’ For United, this is where their decades steeped in glory remain.
City, on the other hand, continue to plough on while Kompany, at the helm of a Burnley side he has transformed into a slick possession unit, battle for their lives.
A win against United would do wonders for their survival fight and ram home the misery for Ten Hag, even if Kompany will insist it is another day at the office. But this simply cannot be true, not with the blue half of Manchester rooting for him again.