The nightmare scenario for Manchester United fans will be right up their manager’s street.
Jose Mourinho’s team could be guests of honour at the mother of all celebrations at the Etihad on April 7.
Should Manchester City win the derby – and with it the Premier League title – the away end will want to make the hastiest of exits.
But while the prospect of seeing Pep Guardiola’s side crowned champions is too painful for United fans to contemplate, it provides Mourinho with the type of occasion that usually sees him thrive.
What more motivation would he need before his team step out against one of their fiercest rivals?
The title has already gone.
Mourinho – like everyone else – has known that pretty much since City last beat United at Old Trafford in November. But he will relish the opportunity to prove party-pooper – even if he can only delay the inevitable.
It might not be pretty – and Mourinho won’t care – but his message to his players will be clear: Do not lose this one.
The next derby could well prove the launchpad for United’s next title challenge.
An opportunity to make a statement against the team that have raised the bar so high.
When at Chelsea, Mourinho ordered his players to give Sir Alex Ferguson’s United a guard of honour when they headed to Stamford Bridge as champions in 2007.
It was a well-used tactic deployed by Ferguson himself in the past.
It was intended to motivate his players for the future.
An experience they should drink in and ensure they never had to repeat.
At least Mourinho will not be presented with that scenario on April 7 – but the pain of watching City’s players laud it up in front of his team is sure to form the basis of his pre-match talk.
Mourinho, himself, will have found this season painful enough.
When he pitched up at the opposite side of the city to his long-time rival Guardiola, he knew he may have to watch the Catalan lead the blue half of Manchester to success.
But he can’t have expected to be left so far in their wake, as United have been this season.
He knows he was appointed to return Old Trafford to the summit of English football – not be an eye witness to Guardiola’s record-breaking feats at City.
Should United upset the odds to triumph in the Champions League, he could still have the last laugh this season – but in the long run it is domestic dominance that is his aim, in manner of Ferguson’s 26 years at the club.
The wait for a first league title has been delayed by at least another year – but at the Etihad next month, he has the chance to make an emphatic statement about their future credentials.
That he could spoil the party at the same time, will just be an added bonus.