Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Monday, 14 February 2011
With wings and faith
you can fly, into the sky
Wayne Rooney certainly did that on Saturday afternoon with an excellent overhead kick that settled a tightly contested Manchester Derby that looked set to be a draw until that stunning intervention. The effect of this result on the Premier League table is significant in many ways.
Firstly in terms of the title race although United still have to travel to Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea it is fair to say that this match ended any hope Manchester City had of winning the title this season. Mancini threw off the defensive approach that his team is perceived to have but in the end it was to no avail although one wonders how the game would have turned out if Silva's early chance had been taken and if he had started with Wright-Phillips instead of Kolarov. City now sit 8 points behind United having played a game more and even the most blinkered BlueNose will accept that only Arsenal have a realistic chance of stopping the relentless march of Sir Alex Ferguson's team to the title. Although at times playing like the United of old this season's team has, in general, played more like Stoke City grinding out narrow results rather than the expansive United teams of recent years.
Secondly the more pressing problem for City is holding on to 3rd place. If Chelsea win this evening they will close the gap to 2 points alongside Spurs and City will not want that margin to be the same when they travel to Stamford Bridge next month or when Spurs come calling in April. Ironically the blue half of Manchester needs a United double over Chelsea as much as the red half. Key fixtures also involve trips to Anfield and the Reebok and a visit from Sunderland who are chasing a European spot. It is not inconceivable that after a season that has promised much they could once again finish 5th and outside the Champions League.
Another impact will be on the FA Cup a trophy that City are taking very seriously and will need to cope with a resurgent Aston Villa assuming they can get past Notts County. United should be confident of seeing off Crawley at Old Trafford a match which should see starts for Hernandez, Michael Owen and several other squad players who haven't had many opportunities to impress this season.
United have tested the faith of their fans this season with an inability to regularly pick up 3 points away from home and with some hard matches coming up they do need to improve on their travels especially as failure to take 3 points from Chelsea and Arsenal will open up the race again just as it is starting to look closed off. I would say this season we have seen the end or near end of some fantastic careers. Ronaldo and Gary Neville retiring within a week of each other is something that is disappointing but had to happen given the decline in their games and if United win the title I suspect Paul Scholes will also hang up his boots. We are also I think seeing the end of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba at Chelsea.
At £50M there is no way Fernando Torres will not be first choice striker and as he and Drogba are very similar players I expect the Ivorian to move on probably back to France although quite a few Premier League clubs would be interested (Newcastle anyone). Terry has a direct threat to his position from David Luiz compounded by Ancelotti's very public statement that he will need to accept being rotated could lead to him moving on as well. Whilst Lampard has no threats to his position at the moment, at 32 he may well have to settle for a bit-part role as a younger player comes in or move to a club where he is more likely to start. Again Newcatle, Sunderland, Villa, Fulham or even Everton could be good moves for him.
This is a fascinating season that may yet have some twists and turns and with Liverpool playing City, Arsenal and Spurs 3 wins coupled with maximum points from their meeting with Sunderland could yet prove decisive. What chance that the table may look like this at the end of the season: -
1. Manchester United
3. Tottenham Hotspur
5. Manchester City
With Arsenal, United, City and Chelsea still in the FA Cup and Arsenal have a chance to win the Carling Cup 6th and 7th place could yet yield a Europa League spot so will see some tight games towards the end of the season.
As for relegation anyone with 30 points or under still needs to be concerned although West Brom are in the worst position with them still playing Wolves twice, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool , Sunderland and Tottenham and in all fairness it is hard to see where they will pick up a total of 4 point from those 7 games. The games against the top sides are consecutive and with the 3 preceding and 2 subsequent matches being local derbies (Wolves, Stoke, Birmingham, Villa and Wolves again) they could well be relegated before their May meeting with Everton.
They more than Manchester United need Wings and Faith over the next few weeks.