With 15 minutes left to play, Sir Alex Ferguson and Roman Abramovich both rubbed their hands with glee. As it stood, Manchester United were 4 points ahead of their Mancunian neighbours with equal games played, meanwhile Chelsea were one point behind a stuttering Spurs side travelling to Stamford Bridge on the weekend.
What a difference a quarter of an hour makes in football. In the space of seven minutes at the Etihad stadium, City earned parity and found a winner. Firstly, thanks to Michael Essien’s generous hand, Sergio Aguero calmly levelled the match from the spot before Carlos Tevez ended his exile as he played in Samir Nasri, who scored past Petr Cech putting City 2-1 up on 85 minutes. Fergie would have been fuming.
200 miles south and eight minutes later, things got slighty worse for Roman. Gareth Bale curled in a delicious left foot cross, met by a glancing Rafael Van Der Vaart header. 1-1. The Dutchman ended Spurs’ poor sequence of three defeats on the spin. A fourth loss in a row would have given Harry Redknapp an unwanted record of Spurs’ first, consecutive, four game losing streak since the days of Jacques Santini in 2004. The fifteen minute, four point swing could make a massive difference come May. Spurs’ run-in will be difficult. The out of form Lillywhites, will soon face the in-form Swansea at home, swiftly followed by a difficult trip to Sunderland. Throw in a London derby in Shepherd’s Bush plus FA Cup excursions and Spurs know that they must rediscover their best form if they are to finish in the top four.
Arsenal were the overall winners from last night. Everton had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside, resulting in a 1-0 win (fifth in succession) for the Gunners which leapfrogs them above their bitter North London foes into 3rd place in the table. How the Gunners’ grin. Four games ago, Spurs were ten points clear, then Capello resigned and now they are in a bit of a pickle. Arsenal have a relatively straight-forward run-in of fixtures other than City at home, before the end of April, proceeding what could prove to be a Champions League eliminator, when they take on Chelsea at home (21st April). Chelsea, themselves, have a tough run-in. In addition to visiting the Emirates, Fernando Torres must also face his ex-employers in the penultimate game of the season at Anfield after two West London derbies, making Saturday’s clash with Spurs all the more important. The Stamford Bridge outfit also has the FA Cup and Champions League to play for. Another possible meeting against Spurs, at Wembley, awaits them in mid-April if Spurs can overcome Bolton.
Back in Manchester, City’s win continued their 100% record at home in 15 league matches this season – a formidable feat. City versus United is going right to the wire. After 29 games, no team in Premiership history has amassed as many points as the two Mancunian clubs have (70 for Utd & 69 for City) without going on to win the league so a record will be broken but for who? With Tevez back, City have effectively signed a new player, significantly one with Premiership and Champions League winning experience. Their squad is noticeably stronger than United’s but the Red Devils contain an abundance of experience. Furthermore, City have a slightly tougher run-in as they face Arsenal at the Emirates, in addition to a trip on the last day of the season to St James Park. United also have to travel to the North East on the same day, facing Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland. However, both sides meet each other at the Etihad stadium on 30th April as City entertain United. Will United avenge their earlier 6-1 hammering at home? Or will Carlos Tevez haunt his former boss and team mates?