City-United title decider or just another derby?
"by around 10.15pm on Monday 30th April, we will know which side of the city will host the Premier League trophy"
March 8th, 2012
When the Premier League released its fixtures in July, many thought that the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium at the end of April would be the potential title decider.
Eight months on and the general opinion seems to be increasingly certain that, by around 10.15pm on Monday 30th April, we will know which side of the city will host the Premier League trophy.
But is the game really going to be a sort of “league final”? A look at the fixture list could leave United fans hopeful of entering Eastlands ahead of their noisy neighbours.
The period between late January and early March was penciled as the toughest part of the season for United, with trips to the Emirates, Stamford Bridge, Norwich and White Hart Lane as well as a home encounter with Liverpool, while City faced easier – at least in theory – opponents.
Manchester United came through their stern test in remarkable fashion, registering wins against Arsenal, Liverpool, Norwich and drawing against Chelsea after having been 3-0 down.
Sunday’s win at Spurs left Ferguson’s team only two points behind Manchester City who have desperately tried to open a gap in the last three months, only for United to close them down with efficient regularity.
Five of United next eight games are at home – against West Bromwich, Fulham, QPR, Aston Villa and Everton – with trips to Wolves, Blackburn and Wigan in between.
While Ferguson has warned that both sides can, and will, drop points, it wouldn’t be a surprise for a team like United that thrives when under pressure to pick up close to maximum points from those next eight games.
In contrast, City face testing trips to Swansea, Stoke, Arsenal and Norwich – with Wolves their other away fixture – plus home games against Chelsea, Sunderland and West Bromwich.
Mancini’s men have a definitely tougher series of games leading to the derby and, perhaps more importantly, will no longer have the psychological advantage of playing before their rivals – with each team having three earlier kick offs scheduled, while twice they will play at the same time.
For neutrals it would make great view to see the teams reaching late April still head to head but it might as well be that one team will have pulled clear by then.
Considering Fergie’s pedigree in this sort of situations, don’t be surprised if it’ll be the red half of Manchester.
Words by Daniele Cancian