As we approach the business end of the season, the top of the league has an alarming familiarity to it.
Last night’s victory against Blackburn has left Manchester United 5 points clear at the top of the league and clear favourites to lift the trophy once again.
It was a seminal moment in the title chase. For the first time in a long time there is daylight between the Manchester clubs and with united in the ascendancy, you wouldn’t bet against them increasing that margin before the derby.
Having led the race for a large part of the season, Manchester City now look like a team on the slide. Saturday’s draw against Sunderland may have initially been celebrated as a point gained given the deficit they had to claw back but the stark reality is that it is more points lost. Points they could ill afford to lose with a rampant united on the march.
But why has such an expensively assembled group of “superstars” faltered? Why do they appear to have bottled it when it really matters?
In my opinion, the answers perhaps lay in the dressing room, rather than out of the pitch.
You see to win a league; you need athleticism, skill, technical ability and a level of tactical awareness that will lift you above the rest. Manchester City and indeed Mancini appear to tick each of those boxes. But that’s not all you need to succeed. You need a team spirit, togetherness and a willingness to fight for each other and the club. I don’t see that at city.
It has often been said that Roberto Mancini must have one of the easiest jobs in world football. Not only has he got owners with wealth in the billions but owners who are happy to back and fund the managers whim, each and every transfer window.
Easy then really. It’s just like fantasy football, isn’t it? Go out, buy the best players and let them all play.
Well no, it’s not. If it was, any football fan with an ounce of knowledge could take charge.
Whilst considering this article, my mind went back to when Mourinho was in charge at Chelsea.
Following a routine Chelsea victory at The Valley, the then Charlton Athletic manager Alan Curbishley was asked how he could expect anything more, given that the combined transfer fee of the Chelsea substitute’s bench, far outweighed the combined cost of the Charlton starting eleven.
Hat’s off to Curbishley, the easy response was to hide behind that fact. Take the easy excuse that was offered. But he didn’t.
He pointed out that of course it made a difference but when went on to comment and praise the hard work and commitment of the Chelsea team. He suggested that if both teams went into the gym now, the Chelsea lads would run faster and for longer. They’d lift heavier weights, for longer. If they got in the pool, they’d swim faster for longer. You get the picture.
The point Curbishley was making was a simple one. Yes Mourinho had an embarrassment of riches at his disposal but the work ethic and determination to succeed that he bred into his squad was second to none.
Not always easy when dealing with the somewhat diva like behaviour of the modern day millionaire footballer.
Can the same be applied to Manchester City? One player couldn’t even be bothered to warm up during a match.
Ultimately, I believe it’s led to their downfall.
At times this season, the club has resembled a soap opera worthy of rivalling the cobbles of Coronation Street rather than a football club and unfortunately, it shows no signs of slowing down.
The Tevez saga has left a huge cloud of the club this season but it’s not an isolated problem.
Balotelli’s ability to cause trouble in an empty house – or at least set a firework off in it - will always detract from anything he does on the pitch and whilst at times he has delivered the goods, you can’t help but feel he will never fulfil the clear potential that he has due to his attitude.
The “Why Always Me” T-Shirt may have been tongue in cheek remark that made all but the united fans smile but it also highlighted a potential fatal flaw in Balotelli’s make up.
If he can’t see why it is always him then I’m afraid he’ll never learn.
Unfortunately, his stupidity seems contagious. Entering into the most important phase of the season, Aguero’s alleged incident on a motorbike simply beggars belief. To miss part of the run in through injury is unavoidable. To miss games through irresponsible behaviour is unforgivable. Aguero is that good his absence could easily cost them the title.
And that’s why Manchester United are better placed to win the league. You don’t have the dramas they endure across the city. When they do, they do nothing more than deepen the team spirit and togetherness of the squad and add to the drive and determination to succeed.
The old guard are slowly moving on, from back to front united are changing.
Whilst there is no denying the ability of some of the youngsters united have brought through the ranks or bought in; they’re far from the finished article at present.
It’s a transitional period and on paper, united should be nowhere near the premier league title. And yet here we are, beginning of April and they are 5 points clear.
It’s been a master class from Ferguson, once again. Keep in touching distance in the early part of the season and then kick on in the second half. The mantra that it’s a marathon not a sprint has always served Ferguson’s united well and it looks like it may do once again.
The man’s appetite is insatiable and you can’t help but admire his hunger and determination.
When he took over at United, he famously said his aim was to knock Liverpool off their perch. Mission accomplished.
Arsene Wenger’s brand of Football and management initially threaten united’s supremacy with double winnings sides and “the invincibles”. United are currently favourites to win another league title whilst Arsenal are happy to qualify for the Champions League. Mission accomplished.
Abramovich’s millionaires. Say no more. Mission accomplished.
He’s seen off every challenge that he’s been presented with.
Now he’s faced with the wealth and might of the noisy neighbours.
There is plenty of football to be played this season and I’ve a feeling there will be more twists and turns before we are done but this season and indeed moving forward, who’d bet against him succeeding again?
Add a Comment