Monday, April 23, 2012

The Title Race is Back On

Under Ferguson, ManYoo have rarely faltered during title run ins with only Arsenal many seasons back having overhauled a significant lead that the Old Trafford men had held. After losing at the Emirates, City looked dead and buried but slip ups against Wigan and Everton have given City renewed hope knowing that victory at home next Monday at the Etihad would put them in the driving seat.

So what has gone wrong at ManYoo? Ferguson is still there cracking the whip as is normal, driving his team to success and the goals have still been coming in the main but the problems are it seems at the back and with a lack of quality in the middle of the park.

Jonny Evans is much like John O'Shea before him, in anything other than a ManYoo shirt he is a very average player and his lack of ability has a habit of destabilising whomever he is partnering in central defence. The Da Silva twins have not developed in the way that Ferguson had hoped and whilst there seems little doubt that De Gea in time will develop into an excellent keeper, he does not yet exude the influence of a Schmeicel or a Van Der Sar.

In the middle of the pitch, journalists have waxed lyrical about the returning Paul Scholes and there had certainly been a pick up in results since his return. Much of that effect however was a mental one on his colleagues and the reality is that Scholes no longer has the legs to be truly effective at the top level. That is not a critiscism of the ginger maestro, merely an acknowledgement of his age.

For City, it is an interesting position. For so long they were leading and they seemed to suffer - especially in away games - as a result of it being 'theirs' to lose'. Now however, they have been thrown an unexpected and very juicy bone and Mancini will be doing all he can to make sure they pick it up.

Much of City's problems this season are of their own doing. The loss of Carlos Tevez for most of the season, Mancini's belated and woeful entry into 'mind games' and the indulgence of Mario Balotelli. City are labelled as a team of mercaneries - rightly so perhaps - but in players such as Hart, Richards, Kompany, De Jong and even Tevez (once he crosses the white line) they have players with real drive and desire.

Tevez and Aguero have been highly effective since the former's resurrection and their movement and pace will be a handful for Evans and the ageing Ferdinand. City have their tails up but one suspects that Ferguson will have his team primed also for the crunch derby.

The game like most derbies is too close to call and much may depend on Mancini's tactics. With the glittering array of attacking talent that he has and the ability of Yaya Toure to dominate ManYoo's much less mobile midfield, City would be well served to be positive against their neighbours.

These are the games that Ferguson relishes and he usually comes out on top. What he must hope is that his team relishes the occasion too and that it has the ability to deliver the result he so craves - No Nonsense.