With just one round of fixtures to go, Manchester City and Manchester United are both level on points at the top of the table but City lead on goal difference and the Citizens are the favourites to win their first title in 44 years.
City entertain QPR in the final match of the season, while United travel to Sunderland. City are odds-on favourite to win the match against the R’s and go on to win the title on Sunday. It seems very straightforward for City to win the title now, but somehow something in me says that come this Sunday, Manchester United will be celebrating their 20th league title. Here are the 5 reasons that are making me think like that.
1. Manchester United Will Win At Sunderland
Last game of the season is a must-win game for United, if they have to stand any chance of winning the title. But having said that and after watching the previous game against Swansea, I feel like the pressure is off Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. It was quite clear from the crowd’s and the player’s attitude during the Swansea game that they believe that the title had been won by City. But all said and done, they will want to end the season with a win and will do so by destroying Sunderland, who have nothing left to play for anymore on the final day. The Black Cats have taken just five points from the last eight games with their last win coming against QPR, more than a month ago. The stats also favour a United win, with the visitors having won eight of the last 10 games and drawn the remaining two.
2. QPR Need To Avoid Defeat To Stay Up
QPR are currently 17th is the league table just two points above the relegation zone. Below them are Bolton with 35 points, two less than the R’s and they travel to Stoke on the final day of the season. Playing against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium is not the easiest thing to do, buts it’s not beyond imagination to see the Wanderers pick all three points. Should that happen, QPR must avoid defeat against Manchester City to avoid relegation just on goal difference. As always, the final round of fixtures will kick off at the same time, so QPR will be desperate to get at least one point which they need.
3. Fergie And His Mind Game
One can never beat Sir Alex Ferguson in mind games, ask the likes of Kevin Keegan and Rafael Benitez. We have seen it in the past and we will see it again this week. This season he has been strangely subdued but in the last week or so we have seen some spark. First, he lost his temper and squared off with Roberto Mancini on the touch-line and later accused the City manager in his post-match interview saying:
“He was out on that touch-line the whole game haranguing the referee, the fourth official and the linesmen. The minute I come off the bench for a bad tackle by De Jong on Welbeck, he was out again. He can’t have it both ways. He’s been complaining about referees this season but he won’t be complaining tonight that’s for sure.”
Mancini didn’t stay quite and replied sarcastically:
“Who said this? Him, no? He doesn’t talk with the referee or the fourth official? No, never.”
Before the Swansea game when Sir Alex was asked if City had one hand on the title? He replied saying ‘No, they have two hands on the title.’ But after the game, he was at it again, goading his form player Mark Hughes to lead his team to an improbable draw or defeat at the home of his fiercest rivals:
“QPR need a point and they’re fighting for survival. The whole future of the club could be resting on the game and I only wish Sparky was playing. But Mark knows his job all right. He was sacked by City in a very unethical way and he’ll remember that.”
I think this is just the start, expect some more comments from both the managers during the week.
4. Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes
Ambition tempted him to leave a promising “project” at Blackburn Rovers and head to mega rich City in 2008. Just 18 months into the job, he was sacked in bitter circumstances and replaced by the current manager, Roberto Mancini. To this day, Hughes believes that he wasn’t given a chance to complete what he had started and that he would have done a better job than Mancini, had he still been manager. That is his opinion, but what is definitely a fact is that come this Sunday, Hughes will do whatever he can to destroy his former employers’ dreams of winning their first league title in 44 years. Hughes said:
“It would be just fantastic to go there and get something. They are going for the title and we’re trying to stay in the league. When I took over at QPR, I looked at the fixtures and that one lurked ominously in the distant future. It does feel a little bit fated for them and for us.”
If Sparky is able to get anything out of that game at the Etihad, then he will be an even bigger United legend than he is today.
5. Money Can’t Buy Titles
I am a Manchester United fan and I believe that football teams should be ‘made’ and not ‘bought’. I hope you get the difference. Nothing could be more of a slap in the face of a true football fan than the fact that a club like Manchester City could spend a billion pounds, buy some of the world’s best players and build the best team in the world. Yes, I know it’s been done before by the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid and they have won titles but it’s disturbing as well. With the amount of money City have spent over the last one-two seasons, even the likes of Wolves and Blackburn could challenge for the league title.
Published with permission from Into The Top Corner.