Changing of the guard
The transition of power is hardly ever wholly affected in one night, day or even week, instead coming in increments, to the point that when change is instigated it is barely noticeable.
So it is hard to believe that the axis of power in the Premier League has shifted about five miles up the road with one lacklustre 1-0 victory, especially just a couple of weeks after United were being lauded for doing what they do best, cranking up the pressure and watching their rivals crack.
Well, this was United’s turn to blink. City deserved everything they got at the Etihad Stadium, namely three points, and now they are on the verge of their first title since 1968.
Is this a new era? It may well be, but City have to win titles on a regular basis for some time yet before they can claim to be the big dogs, but it certainly is a giant leap in the right direction.
There was plenty of talk before the game from the Manchester United camp that they wouldn’t be settling for a draw yesterday, while Ferguson mused that he had ‘two or three’ difficult selections to make ahead of a game so huge that Niall Quinn was shipped in for commentary duty to rein in the excitement a notch.
Unfortunately for Fergie, he got it wrong. Leaving Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck on the bench in a game he professed to wanting to win is akin to telling a girl you like her while landing one on her chin.
It is a tactic Ferguson has deployed in the Champions League in seasons gone by, using the more defensively solid South Korean to help his side’s shape, usually at the expense of Nani.
If Chris Smalling would have stuck to the plan by marking Vincent Kompany adequately he may have walked away with a point, albeit one that flew in the face of his earlier claims of going for the jugular, and the nuances of his approach would not be the subject of such intense debate.
But, such are the fine margins of the game at the top level that one defensive slip and it was lights out for the Champions, and Ferguson will now bare the brunt of criticism that wouldn’t exist if it ended 0-0.
Aside from his and Ferguson’s attempts to prove who is the greatest puppeteer on the sidelines mid-way through the second half, Roberto Mancini was a bastion of positivity throughout the game.
His attacking trio of Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, ably supported by the roving Yaya Toure, was in stark contrast to United’s deep-sitting possession snafflers designed to destruct rather than create.
It was edifying to see Toure rampage after the ball in the dying minutes and Samir Nasri spurn a golden chance while United had all the energy of an ME sufferer after a brisk stroll.
If they do manage to land the title this season they will do so because they deserved it, and because they dared to go forward in a game where they had far more to lose than their opponents, who spurned such an opportunity.
Who is the favourite?
Hang on, wasn’t yesterday’s super showdown winner takes all game a super showdown in which the winner would take all?
Level on points with two games to go, City lead the way by virtue of goal difference. Both Ferguson and Mancini say the other one is the favourite to land the title this season, Mancini pipping his rival for the second time in one night by suggesting his side have the harder run-in.
However despite the Italian’s protestations the title would appear to be City’s to lose; gone is an entire season’s effort and the psychological barrier that they must maintain their form across the season, now they sit just two wins from glory.
Newcastle away represents something of a tough task but if Wigan can beat them 4-0 and they can’t, frankly they don’t deserve the title.
City learn to roll with it
Roberto Mancini has enough to worry about without fearing for his life that one day, somewhere, Liam Gallagher might bump into Mario Balotelli, causing the universe to implode through sheer levels of mischief made.
The former Oasis snarler pulled a Balotelli-esque stunt as he rocked up at the post-game press conference, took Mancini’s seat and gave his opinion on the game having previously led a rendition of his own song from his own people from his very own executive box.
Any more stunts like this and he’s going to get a reputation for being an attention seeking narcis…..oh.