By Mark James
Battle of Manchester[/caption]Is there anyone in football who believes the Premier League trophy is leaving Manchester this season? With Chelsea losing further ground, as Benitez continues to make himself increasingly unpopular with the fans, it seems that even the most optimistic supporter must be forced into acknowledging the huge gulf in quality that exists between both Manchester clubs and even their closest English rivals.
Perhaps the rise to prominence of West Bromwich Albion raises questions regarding the depth of quality within the top flight of the English game, but maybe that is a discussion for another day. Instead, I am keen to highlight the importance of this years’ Derby games, because, with little more than a third of the season gone, it seems clear that the Premier League title will not only stay in Manchester, it will be decided in Manchester as well.Whilst Chelsea were being praised for the combination play of their dynamic midfield trio, Swansea were heralded as the Welsh Barcelona and Tottenham were clearly noted as a resurgent force ready to rise to prominence under the tactical guidance of AVB, both Manchester clubs have supposedly been uninspiring, weak in defence, lacking their cutting edge and on a downward turn. It is therefore somewhat of a sad indictment of our league, to see these two teams already creating a gap from the rest of the chasing pack.
But, let’s not kid ourselves. The red and blue sides of Manchester not only feature substantially better starting elevens than any other Premier League team, they also have the squad depth to ensure that the gap which exists will only continue to grow. If you think I am wrong, come back in 6 months time and we’ll do the maths.
Of course, maths is going to be as important this season as it was when Sergio Aguero’s last minute strike allowed Manchester City to rip the trophy from their rivals on nothing more than goal difference. If you don’t believe me, consider this; the Manchester Derby is no longer two games to be played throughout the season, instead they represent a 13 point affair which will decide whether the Premier League trophy stays where it is or takes a short ride back to more familiar surroundings.
Last season’s meetings saw City take all 6 points, whilst boosting their goal difference over their arch rivals by an additional 12 goals. Had the results been reversed, Manchester United would have run away with the league title by 12 points, whilst goal difference would have been inconsequential. However, by the last day of the 2011/12 season, it was clear to see that City’s superior goal difference was worthy of a point, a point which won them their first league title in forty-four years.
Either way, third placed Arsenal found themselves 19 points behind as they gained their spot in the Champion’s League. Their team has had to suffer substantial losses in recent years such as Robin van Persie, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri which is sure to place an even greater emphasis on the greater talent on show at Old Trafford and The Etihad Stadium.
Sadly, it seems that we are back to the days when football fans know that only two teams would be fighting it out for Premier League glory. Chelsea will remain contenders. Yet an owner who has an itchy trigger finger when it comes to firing managers will continue to prevent them being anything more than flash-in-the-pan victors at any given time. Regardless of opinion, firing a man who leads your side to their first Champion’s League victory is not the action of man intent on building a dynasty.
Following Wednesday night’s games, Sir Alex Ferguson declared that this will be another tight title race. But, it will be a tight race for only two. This year, and for years to come, the title is set to remain in Manchester and it will be decided by a match which is sure to grow in stature. Simply put, the Premier League trophy will be decided by the Manchester Derby.
About the Author: Mark James attended his first Manchester United game in the mid 80s. He has been a regular visitor to Old Trafford for more than two decades and has developed a passion for sports writing since leaving University with an Honours Degree in Media Studies. As a dedicated writer, Mark has been published in UN sponsored business magazines on behalf of International Tourist Boards, dramatically boosted the online present of e-commerce companies around the world and continues to share his love of Manchester United with blogging communities across the internet. Available via a number of freelancer hire sites, Mark can be contacted through his leading online profile available here..