Twist of Fate
Posted: 15 March 2012
THE Premier League is now on its decisive stretch to the finish and at this juncture we could already feel the pulse as to who would lift the crown at season’s end.
Manchester United just wheeled their way back to the championship path following Sunday’s turn of events.
The Red Devils won and Manchester City lost, and just like that, the former assumed leadership and kicked the latter down to second.
It’s just a precarious 67 to 66 lead with the season still far from over. It’s a long way to go, to borrow that overused cliché.
But United just added a ton of confidence to their campaign following that Wayne Rooney-powered 2-0 spanking of West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford. On the other hand, City continued their downward spiral at this crucial stage of the campaign after losing 0-1 at Swansea.
The win was a sweet one to absorb for United and a bitter pill to swallow for City who had been clinging on to the No. 1 spot since October until that collapse at the Liberty Stadium.
City did United a big favour by dropping a vital match. Looking ahead, United are going after an easier lineup of opponents the rest of the way. City are facing a tougher route. Moreover, they have a mouth-watering clash on April 30 and this one could probably be the decider.
A team in disarray is what City turned into after their latest loss which manager Roberto Mancini bewailed as brought about by a conceded "stupid goal.’’ A rift between Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure at halftime plus a show of protest from Gareth Barry after he was substituted added fire to their woes.
Instead of ruing over their latest setback, City should regroup to be back in the fray. Only United could benefit if dissent pervades in their dugout.
CRUCIAL GAMES AHEAD
The approaching matches could really make or break both teams’ bids this term. If the next one is to be talked about, United have the easier task at hand. They can stretch their lead if they triumph at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday. However, the Wolves are no patsy foes and United must not let their guard down. Good for them if they can hurdle this next outing for they would increase the pressure more on City whose next fixture will have them facing Chelsea at home on Wednesday.
Ferguson was right. That City loss was a bonus. But he should take notice that their performance was more important. It is vital that they keep their heads-up play and ensure they don’t drop the needed points.
Being in front right now is not an assurance that momentum has totally shifted in United’s favour. The idea here is to play with further focus, a trait the Red devils showed despite their disappointing loss to Athletic Bilbao in their Champions League tie opener prior to their win over West Brom.
Their coming showdown against City could clinch it for them if they succeed in the derby at the Etihad Stadium and they should gain more points on the way to that encounter to build some cushion.
And if Rooney goes on playing with devastating effect, United could hang on. He may not be at his best at times but he always rises to the occasion on crucial moments.
With all those flaks coming his way in case he performs negatively, Rooney deserves a pat on his back for his latest master class. Also, the Red Devils deserve to be back atop the perch.
City are showing signs of weakness right now. They have lost three times in the league and the fire they showed at the start has been slowly being doused with cold water.
If they crumble heading home, they will be frustrated again. What a pity if they blow it all away this season!
But then again, there are still games to be played. United can falter along the way or City may recover. In this kind of setup, resiliency could play an important role.
However, if City keep on showing their wretched form, especially while away, the fight for the crown may be settled much earlier.
City remain in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with United in the battle for the Premier League diadem this season. It’s just a matter of who blinks first down the stretch before we could finally decipher which side get to hold the trophy aloft in the final reckoning.
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