The Premier League title race was blown wide open Monday night after Manchester City deservedly beat Manchester one-nil at Etihad Stadium.
With the three points, Manchester City now climbs into first place on goal difference. City’s faces Newcastle United on Sunday (8:30am ET, live on FOX Soccer) at St. James’s Park followed by their game versus Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the season, Sunday May 13. Manchester United, meanwhile, plays Swansea City on Sunday (11am ET, live on FOX Soccer) at Old Trafford. The Red Devils then play Sunderland on the final day of the season.
The win for Manchester City tonight means that the race for the 2011-12 Premier League title will be decided on the final day of the season. Importantly, City has the edge right now due to a better goal difference of +8 over United. However, City — on paper — faces the tougher opponents in the final two matches of the season. Newcastle is battling to qualify for the Champions League, while Queens Park Rangers will be battling to avoid relegation. United’s opponents — Swansea and Sunderland — have nothing to play for other than pride and a chance to earn more revenue for their club by moving up higher in the table.
Back to the Etihad, it was a feisty affair between the red and blue half of Manchester on Monday night. Ferguson got what he deserved by setting out his team with a very defensive formation in the first half which almost worked until Vincent Kompany scored with a header near the stroke of half time. With United forced into pushing forward in the second half, it was always going to be difficult to beat City.
Now with two matches to go for both Manchester clubs, this promises to be one of the most exciting Premier League finales in recent history especially if both clubs can win on Sunday. The advantage is with Manchester City right now, but for how long? If City can win both of their matches, the Premier League title will theirs — done and dusted. If City slips up, then that gives Manchester United the opportunity to win it.
Call me a fool, but I still believe that Manchester United will end up winning the Premier League title. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side still has the experience and mentality necessary to remain focused on getting the maximum six points in their final two matches. The pressure is now on Manchester City, not United. Manchester City players know that the Premier League title is theirs to either win or throw away. At this point, City is favorites to win the title so that takes the pressure off Manchester United. The Red Devils will go to Old Trafford on Sunday and will beat Swansea, and will beat Sunderland on the final day of the season. Who knows whether Manchester City can beat Newcastle at St. James’ Park. If they can, and if they beat QPR on the final day of the season, full credit to them. They deserve to win. But they need to make sure that they don’t start to believe that they’ve won the Premier League title before they have it in their grasps.
Note to American readers: With City winning today, I expect that since ESPN — having the first pick of the games in the US — to wait until after next Sunday’s matches before they decide which game they’ll show live on ESPN2 on Sunday, May 13 — the final day of the season. As it stands now, it’ll probably be Manchester City versus Queens Park Rangers, but if City lose or draw on Sunday and United win, it’ll probably be Sunderland versus Manchester United.
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