They thought it was all over …
Two weeks ago, after leaving the Emirates Stadium after Manchester City had seemingly thrown in the towel against Arsenal, the world’s media and pundits had handed the Premier League title to Manchester United. Even the Salford bookie Fred Done paid out on a foregone conclusion.
Roll the clocks forward 14 days … and it’s all not so clear cut.
United on the home straight have wobbled, firstly at Wigan and yesterday at home to Everton. When leading 4-2 with eight minutes to play, they somehow managed to scrape a 4-4 draw. In between all this, City have decided to throw off the shackles and string three wins on the spin, blasting 12 goals and conceding just one. So you could say that it’s all set up nicely for a week today at the Etihad Stadium, where the winner takes it all.
City have to win. It’s imperative that they go and win all their three remaining games and the decider may not even be in East Manchester next week but in Newcastle on 6 May, when City visit the Geordie heartland. Newcastle have everything to play for as they are chasing a top-four finish, ousting Spurs and Chelsea in the process. Yet United could pinch a draw at the Etihad and turn over Swansea a week later at Old Trafford to nick the title.
Today we found out that the referee for next Monday night’s blockbuster is not United favourite Howard Webb but Andre Marriner, which will keep the terraces a little quieter on the blue side. But it will increase the flames on the red side as Mr Marriner was the official in the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra bust-up earlier this season.
For City, it’s a simple scenario. Win and you are again top of the league on goal difference; draw and it’s back in United’s hands; lose and it’s as good as over.