I wrote an article about 2 weeks ago that the title race was all but sewn up and returning back to the Old Trafford trophy cabinet. That may have been a little preempted.
Initially it was City’s to lose – to which they did. Manchester United’s advantage meant that they were clear favourites for the title – and they haven’t grasped their opportunity.
My point? Not one club this season has had a firm grip on the league title, unlike in previous years, where the eventual winners had begun to run away with it some point in the Spring.
Thus the magnitude of Mondays clash at the City of Manchester stadium is so large in proportions such that it has ultimately become winner takes all. Man United win? Then it doesn’t look like they’ll let a 6 point lead slip this late on. A City win would allow them to regain top spot on a superior goal difference, a spot that they surely can’t lose.
Fergie can’t play an understrength team at City, he’ll know that the midfield that was deployed against Wigan previously will be overrun. He’ll also be aware of his sides defensive collapse against Everton, and how Rafael’s performance may leave the Citizens rubbing their hands. Although the upcoming fixtures post City include a seemingly routine trip to Sunderland and as host to Swansea, three points have to be earned in both of those games.
But Mancini needs to ensure whoever starts up top has to get them goals. Whether he selects Tevez or Aguero, or a combination of both, they need to know not to get overawed by the occasion – particularly Carlos Tevez. City host Newcastle and then travel to QPR – two sides who also require wins for their own agendas.
This will be tight, no doubt. Anything short of a victory for City may mean that it’s too late to catch their local rivals. However, if Man United fail to pick up anything, the initiative will be handed to City. A draw? Well, that just makes predictions that much harder.
I’m going to stick with my previous assumption in that Manchester United may just edge the title, by playing out a draw at the Etihad – but it wont be as easy as it first seemed. City should have had the league wrapped up by now, but then so should have United.
Who said the league was getting boring? Messrs Mancini and Fergie, its in your hands now.
Randeep Sangha – http://the-beautiful-game.org/