Monday, 6 February 2012

Is the 20th title on the horizon?

Following Manchester City’s timely defeat away at Everton on Tuesday evening, I’m going to evaluate if we (if you hadn’t realised from the title, I’m a United fan) can really edge out our city rivals for another Premier League title.
Form, pressure and know how.
How many times are we going to hear it? Manchester United weren’t at their best yet still won. Well minus the first five league games, we haven’t been at our best ALL season. Yet time and time again Sir Alex’s side edge out a victory, a sign of champions.
Taking my red hat off for a minute, I can appreciate how good Manchester City have been this season, I’d even go as far as saying Barca-Esq. But for me their inability to win when having an off day will haunt them. Take this week for the perfect example. We were poor away to Everton earlier on in the season, yet we secured a valuable 1-0 away win against a good Everton side; yet City couldn’t.
For now I’m going to rule the usual candidates of Arsenal and Chelsea out of the title race; they aren’t good enough. But for me their London rivals Spurs are more then in the hunt for the Premier League. Their midfield compares and even betters everything in the league for me! I do feel they will fall short though, a main reason being their lack of players who have been in this position before with only Scott Parker and William Gallas lifting the Barclays Premier League title, both during their time at Chelsea.
Manchester United 9/10
Manchester City 8/10
Tottenham 7/10
The fixture list (written before weekends action)
Looking at the fixture list, the remaining games ensure City are favourites. With the crucial games highlighted below, Roberto Mancini’s side have just three of the ‘big six’ to play, with two of them at the fortress that is Eastlands. In comparison to Manchester United and Tottenham who have four games against the big boys, with three of those on their travels.
Crucial matches
Chelsea vs Manchester United (05/02/12)
Liverpool vs Tottenham (06/02/12)
Manchester United vs Liverpool (11/02/12)
Arsenal vs Tottenham (26/02/12)
Tottenham vs Manchester United (04/03/12)
Manchester City vs Chelsea (19/03/12)
Chelsea vs Tottenham (24/03/12)
Arsenal vs Manchester City (07/04/12)
Manchester City vs Manchester United (28/04/12)
Manchester United 6/10
Manchester City 8/10
Tottenham 6/10
The departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez for me exposed our lack of a creative midfielder; because with them two plus Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney, usually we wouldn’t need one, because at most times we had four match winners on the field.
Paul Scholes’s return is as inspired as is it desperate. His know how can only be a good thing for the likes of Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, who despite his tender age, has been missed in the heart of United’s midfield. All the pluses aside with the move to recall Scholes, I feel Sir Alex recognizes the need to add creativity in the middle of the park. The F.A Cup defeat at Liverpool only highlighted that further, as 65% possession at Anfield wasn’t converted into chances or goals.
City and Spurs both let players go in the January transfer window, which confirmed how good their strength in depth is. City have an incredible array of talent available and their squad is the best of the three (So strong in fact they felt obliged to lend Spurs Emmanuel Adebayor.)  Tottenham’s midfield, like I touched apon before is incredibly strong; however their defence is always liable to concede a goal.
Manchester United 8/10
Manchester City 9/10
Tottenham 8/10
Injuries and suspensions
I’m sure every fan has at least bemoaned their injury list this season; however Manchester United fans can do so with great evidence. Nemanja Vidic, Nani, Rooney, Cleverley, Welbeck, Javier Hernandez, Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones have all at least faced a month of the 2011/12 season on the sidelines.
Manchester City’s real problem has been in the treatment room, more of international duty and suspensions. The Toure brothers have both been away with the Ivory Coast at the current African Cup of Nations whilst Mario Balotelli and Vincent Kompany landed themselves in hot water with four match bans respectively. Spurs have been fortunate on the injury count, because when injuries have occurred they have only been minor ones ruling their players out for only short periods.
Manchester United 7/10
Manchester City 7/10
Tottenham 8/10
It’s fair to say Sir Alex Ferguson has been there, done it and got the T-Shirt. 12 Premier League Titles is an unbelievable haul, and I feel if he was in charge of any of the top five teams last season he would’ve guided them to Premier League success, that’s how much of a difference he makes. He’s seen off every manager whose challenged him, with the current duo the latest crop of managers to have a go. And if Manchester United are to win the league, he’ll be the reason why!
Roberto Mancini has won three Serie A titles with Inter Milan and has done a very good job with Manchester City. Over recent weeks he has shown signs of crumbling under the pressure (Admitting he thought it would be ‘easier’ to win at Everton just one example) and with the pressure firmly on City for the amount they’ve spent, only time will tell if they crumble.
For Harry Redknapp this is the first time he has been in a Premier League title race and with just one F.A Cup title to his name, his lack of experience in the hunt for the ultimate price can be questioned. Following their 2-0 victory over Everton he came out and stated his side could win the league, which put pressure on his side before their 1-1 home disappointing draw with Wolves, before claiming after the game he’d be ‘over the moon with a top four finish.’ Alex Ferguson is the master at taking the pressure away from his side, something Redknapp failed to do there. However don’t get me wrong, what Redknapp has done at Tottenham rivals anything in the Premier League.
Sir Alex Ferguson 10/10
Roberto Mancini 8/10
Harry Redknapp 7/10
Manchester United 40/50
Manchester City 40/50
Tottenham 36/50
At this current stage of the season I really can’t call whether we will make it 20 League titles or ‘the noisy neighbours’ will win the league. One thing for sure, I can’t wait to see it’s conclusion.

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