Schadenfreude is a dangerous sport, not least when it comes to the ebb and flow of a Premier League title race. But there was undoubtedly a collective chuckle from the Red half of Manchester on Sunday at the delicious sight of a Manchester City fan breaking down in tears. Was it a death in the family that caused such public, and humiliating distress, mooted writer Daniel Harris? Perhaps the outbreak of war, or a death in the family. None of the above your honour; simply the trauma of City falling a goal behind to Swansea in the 11th-to-last match of the campaign.
Thousands of Manchester United fans joined in the fun, readily mocking John Millington, the City supporter, and joyously celebrating the Reds’ return to the top of the Premier League table. It was, or at least seemed to be, a turning point in the campaign. For all City’s wealth, and United’s catastrophic winter injury crisis, here was United taking top spot after beating West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford, while the Blues lost again on the road, this time at Swansea City.
Winning the title isn’t that simple of course, and while the momentum is squarely with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, the single point gap is hardly a royal flush waiting to be called. Indeed, just as City had not won the title in October, despite the Robert Mancini-led outfit storming to a seven point lead, the Reds will be wary to prematurely claim a 20th domestic title with 10 games to go.
Yet, there is undeniably a sense of panic enveloping Eastlands, with Mancini sporting a rabbit-in-the-headlights expression when questioned about his side’s chances of victory come May. United will drop points, surmised the Italian; the unconvincing aside coming barely a day after Mancini called on his players to win all of their remaining Premier League matches.
Worse may come for the Blues, with Mancini’s side facing another five games on the road before the season concludes. After all, the Abu Dhabi-owned outfit has recorded just eight points from a similar number of games away from Eastlands. Banana-skin fixtures against Chelsea in Manchester, Stoke City away and Martin O’Neil’s vibrant Sunderland come before March is out.
By contrast United faces no team inside the top 10 before travelling to meet City in a potentially decisive fixture in east Manchester on 30 April. Decisive, that is, if City is still within touching distances by that point. Indeed, the business-like manner in which United is now racking up the points, despite all the injuries, lack of squad depth, and a calamitous European campaign, says much for the mood at Old Trafford.
“It was a great performance,” said Sir Alex of United’s comfortable victory over West Brom.
“We took a bit of time to get the rhythm of the game right but once we got that we played some exciting stuff and some really good football. We could have scored a lot of goals today. If there is a criticism then that is it. But we produced a stern performance; it was determined and there was a great will to win.
“We created a lot of chances and missed them. Fortunately we got the second goal and we still missed chances after that, but we kept our drive for the whole game, which was good. The players didn’t stop; they tried to score from every attacking situation.”
Profligacy could still cost the Reds, as could complacency of the kind displayed at Norwich City a fortnight ago. Change comes in a heartbeat, and United’s weekend fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers, and then City’s three days later versus Chelsea, could bring yet another swing.
Such is momentum’s importance that Ferguson is unlikely to disrupt United’s domestic flow on Thursday when the Reds meet Athletic Club in Bilbao. United’s tie at Wolves ensures that supporters can expect a fringe and reserve squad to face the excellent Basque outfit, despite any claims that Ferguson’s side can turn the tie around.
At this point the consequences of fielding a full-strength side and still potentially losing, outweigh any benefits victory brings. After all, elimination from the Champions League, and defeats to Athletic and Ajax in UEFA’s second string competition, have brought no discernible negative reaction domestically.
Meanwhile, City face Sporting in Manchester followed by the home clash with managerless Chelsea. City’s home form is imperious; Chelsea’s record on the road has brought four defeats. The odds on two home victories are high, but such is the battering City’s confidence has taken that a reversal in either game will no bring surprise.
Mancini’s rhetoric is adding little more than doubt to the equation. It is as if the Italian believes no longer in his side, or his ability to turn it around. The excuses are flowing quickly now, in stark contrast to Ferguson’s confidence. Despite two Serie A titles, Mancini is a relative novice in England, and this time there is no Calciopoli to aid the former Sampdoria striker’s managerial progress.
“There are 10 games to go, and it’s important we start to score and win again,” said Mancini after City’s 1-0 loss in Wales.
“Some players may be tired after seven months of the season, but I think we have a lot of energy to get back to the top. It all depends on us; we have 10 games and anything could happen. We have to be strong, when you’re at the top it’s easy, when you’re not you have to be strong. I don’t think we deserved another result like this, but now we can do nothing.”
By contrast Ferguson exuded experienced calm after United’s routine win at Old Trafford; a man, more than 25 years into United job, who lives for these moments. While much of the Scot’s side exhibits the callow enthusiasm of youth, a core of Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney are sure to start United’s biggest games from here on in. It is a quintet in which Ferguson trusts.
United’s focus and City’s troubles is a truism that will resonate strongly at Eastlands, where pressure has been building since Christmas.
“We felt if we came through those tough away fixtures [during the winter] we would be setting ourselves up for the rest of the season,” added winger Ashley Young.
“We have managed to do that and now our home form is key. A lot of people might not have thought we would be in front of City but we have that belief. As long as we are winning our games, the pressure is on them.”
So much that the returning carpetbagger Carlos Tevez will be welcomed back into the first team with open arms when the 28-year-old is match fit. After Mancini so publicly defenestrated the Argentinian any move to welcome Tevez back is little more than an act of desperation, critics will correctly add.
Meanwhile, Ferguson is brimming with confidence; a man who has once again confounded the critics and supporters by taking a thin United squad further, domestically at least, than many has predicted.
“We have that experience and it does help,” concluded the United boss.
“We won’t get nervous. Against West Brom we kept playing our football even at 1-0 when the fans were thinking ‘just get us a second’. It didn’t concern the players one bit. It is good to see that kind of temperament.”
Over at Eastlands the crying supporter has rapidly become a poster boy for the moment. Millington denied his public distress - he could do little else. But the fan, much like Mancini, will have woken this morning with a significant dent to both pride and confidence.
The day City possibly, maybe, blew the title(33 posts) (8 voices)
Posted by unregistered user: Jolie
Don’t count the chickens before they hatched.
Posted by unregistered user: MancJD
When was the last time a team won the league with 10 games to go?
Obviously it's too soon to celebrate... but I can't help feeling that the worm has turned.
We may have dropped some stupid points, to teams we should have beaten... but there's a feeing that our real form has finally shown up... and our injury situation is sorting itself out as well.
De Gea is looking the business, Evans has found his game of 2 years ago, Young is back to his start of the season form, and best of all Rooney is looking hungry and sharp.
We've got a relatively easy run in, and all the momentum now...
I still think we might stumble once or twice, but I can see the Bitters making a right mess of things from here on...
Nothing's over till it's over... but I'm feeling pretty good... I doubt Bitters fans can say the same."Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don't need badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching' tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you."
Posted by unregistered user: Tom
Far too early for this kind of reaction. Over the years Utd have consistently produced performances like Sunday, where they should have hammered the team, only to go and fuck it up completely away from home against someone who works hard and defends with 10 men behind the ball (like Wolves will do).
If Chelsea go out of the CL on Weds, they could be deflated, and given City’s home form, you cant rule out a rout 3 or 4 goal there, and suddenly it swings back the other way significantly.
Utd just need to keep focused, take it game by game, and keep as many players fit and available as possible.
Posted by unregistered user: Gabagool
Every title is a treat, but IF we hang on and get the 20th this year it’ll be particularly sweet. Had a bagful of Citeh “fans” come out of the woodwork over here in the last 12 months, can’t wait to piss on their cornflakes if they crumble from here on. Heh.
Shuddertothink – you get what the words “possibly” and “maybe” mean. I’m not sure I could be more equivocal….
Posted by unregistered user: Shuddertothink
Ed, I didn’t argue with the phrase ‘possibly’. In fact I didn’t argue against your piece at all. I merely stated what statistics tell us. You know what you’re doing with the headline thoough, eh!
Posted by unregistered user: Miguel
I agree with you 100%, however we have a manager that will make sure that they do exacly that, keep focused and grind out result after result. The more games we win the more pressure City will feel.
Shuddertothink – yes, reflecting a ‘potentially’ pivotal point in the title race. What is it that you think I’m doing with the headline?
Now – explain the methodology behind your “statistics” and points prediction because if we take City’s current form 8 from 8 away, 24 from 8 at home City will end the season on 86 points.
Posted by unregistered user: Shuddertothink
“statistics”. I love that, I do.
Ah ed, but you are only using the last 8 games as an indicator for total points projection. 15 home games, 15 away games have been played.
We’ll discard the home form cos it’s consistent. Away form, do we take the last 8 games as an indicator for future form, which would suit United? Or the first 6 games of away form which would suit city? Neither are correct without the others context.
It might be better to say we’ll take the last 8, because it’s more recent and might display a trend. But it’s a small sample size and if we have a bigger sample size we should use that instead.
Now, city won’t return to that blistering away form of the first 6 games (16 points) yet they probably won’t continue on this bad streak either (8 pts in 8 games). So their future form will probably be somewhere in between.
First 6 16 pts 2.6 ppg
last 8 8 pts 1.0 ppg
overall 14 games 1.6 ppg
5 away games remain which using the 1.6 figure is 9 points. I was a tad more realistic in projecting 8 points( 2-2-1 record ) as I factored in current away form (last slightly more than first 6 away form.
So that’s how we get the 90 points total.
Any Questions on “statistics”?
Posted by unregistered user: Shuddertothink
that smiley face should read the number 8!!
Next four league games:
Fulham at home
QPR at home
Chelsea at home
Sunderland at home
I think City will do very well (or United do very badly!) to still be within a point of United after these four sets of fixtures.
Squeaky bum time indeed.
Posted by unregistered user: triggs
Who needs away form when you have statistics hey?
Well whatever we do over the next 10 matches, it sounds like we'll be doing it without Anderson, who is apparently injured again and will miss the rest of the season: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1034913/manchester-united-midfielder-anderson-could-miss-title-run-in?cc=5739
The kid's such a turkey, we'll have to get rid of him.
Posted by unregistered user: Damian Garside (URL)
Yes, indeed. The Greeks called this hubris: the pride that the gods would always squash just to show us mere mortals how stupid it is to assume things.Granted, we now have edged ahead and this may be the decisive moment where all our run-in skills kick in, but there are the following things to consider:
(a) City want and need this title more than we do. They haven’t won the title since 68. It’s probably because its City who are our rivals that we have put in such a superhuman effort and picked up so many points (maybe if it were Arsenal or Chelsea we would syill be lagging behind). But City’s supreme desire to be Premier League champions could work in two ways, not necessarily mutually exclusive: firstly, what we expect and have already seen: they may want it so much that they slip up. But secondly, there other side of the coin is that they want it so much that they will sweat blood/perform miracles to get it.
(b) the match at the Etihad could go either way — but they are at home, they have a better squad than us in the key area of midfield and they have a real world class player in Aguero. Then again, we are likely to play this match so strategically that we can control its outcome. Then again, Fergie could have a brain blip and choose a totally inappropriate lineup for this ultimate `Classico’.
(c) we need to be ahead on points: level points will not be good enough because of their superior goal-difference that we may crimp that a bit — but we are not going to turn that around. To be safe we need to push the single point gap to four points wherever possible: if City lose and we do not use the opportunity to forge 4 pts ahead, then we will still be playing roulette until the final whistle on the final day.
(d) if we win we shall celebrate and feel a sense of relief and enjoy the feelings of supremacy over the lightblues. If they win they will go absolutely crazy with joy — totally Dinoysian delirious, with the Gallaghers performing free live concerts etc etc. So if there is a God and he is thinking about where to throw in his lot– he has to choose between a major ripple of pleasure lasting a couple of weeks and an outbreak of total, unrestrained year(or even decade)-long joy that Manchester hasn’t seen since 1993 (our first win after 26 years) or 199 (the Treble).
(e) if we don’t win it this year — then without buying big at the end of the season– we may never win it again.
Shuddertothink – my point in using the past 8 games, as a completely arbitrary data point, is that I suspected your predicted points total was bogus. Just as 86 is. Or Mancini’s laughable 99. Fortunately you’ve now concurred with that. How? Your basis for now concluding that “their future form will probably be somewhere in between” is that you think neither polar extremes is probable. Based on what? Why not assume City will lose their next 5 away games. Might as well. Got as much basis in truth.
What we do know is ‘soft’ data… City aren’t playing that well, they’ve got tougher games than United, Mancini looks like a man under pressure, Ferguson doesn’t, the momentum is with United. It’s not scientific, which is why the article was caveated from the title and throughout the article. Your attempt to create some data is nonsense.
Posted by unregistered user: Denton Davey
Triggs @ 12:39: “I think City will do very well (or United do very badly!) to still be within a point of United after these four sets of fixtures.”
In relation to the next four fixtures that you’ve highlighted – and taking away-form, recent goal-scoring, and “confidence” (that injury to Kompany is only “supposed to” excuse him from another week but…….) into account – it seems to me quite likely that ManShitty look as likely to get six points as none or 12.
In reality, UTD have one difficult fixture between now and the end of April – Thursday night @ Bilbao. The other matches feature UTD versus some version of DeadMenWalking who are, to be sure, in relegation struggles – but they’re in that shit-hole for a reason, they’re crap.
Sure, things can go pear-shaped BUT that’s where experience counts – and team-spirit. ManShitty seem to be expecting Carlitos to be a miracle worker for them BUT it’s equally-possible that his inclusion (and a team-mate’s exclusion) will have exactly the opposite impact.
Coming back from three-down @ Stamford Bridge was the biggest result of the season – that must have “sent a message”, loud and clear, that UTD are in it, to win it.
Posted by unregistered user: Denton Davey
bman@ 1:42: “The kid’s such a turkey, we’ll have to get rid of him.”
I completely disagree with that statement. When Anderson-son-son-son first burst on the scene, he shit-on-Fabregas – and Gerrard, too. In four-plus seasons, how long has he been able to be injury-free and ready to be selected ?
Anderson has been incredibly unlucky-with-injuries AND, of course, he’s been a “kid” who has acted like a “kid”. I do agree, however, that these on-going injuries make him unreliable.
He cost about 15 million quid – BUT who would pay more than three or four million nowadays ? PLUS, he has a shiny new contract that would also worry any possible purchaser – except, maybe, those Anzhi petro/gas moguls who’ll possibly take him in a package-deal for Dimmy in the summer.
anderson is a sorry waste of space in a red shirt
totally over rated and should be sold this summer
knowing the way our midfield stinks however, it wouldn't amaze me if that lump of lard is kept
shuddertothink – The figures are bogus because the methodology is bogus. Why is a season a better guide than current form? What is current form… well something that is current. Pick a number… 5, 6, 8, 10? Is City, United or any other club playing the same as in August? Certainly not. It could well be weak correlation between form in August and results over the next 10 games, or indeed between form over past 28 games, and the next 10. There’s certainly no causal relationship. Point being, City may match 1.66 ppg. They may not. Its pretty weak predictive model IMHO. You’d be better running a regression analysis on all title winning teams – to seek out correlations between form over season, and last 10 games; form over the previous, say 8 or 10 games, and the last 10 games. And looking for comparisons and patterns. Do come back when you’ve “advanced that far”…. and if it gets you to 90 we’ll ask the Premier League to hand out the medals early.
That said.. I agree it’ll be very close. My piece wasn’t about guessing who’ll win the title. More a ‘feeling’ that City may well have just choked…
Suddertothink – Ben, I both work with data daily and have a degree in it so you can cut out the insults, thanks. Sorry to say, because you seem like a nice fella, but you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. You do a good line in patronising though, which is interesting, but based in your own ignorance of the topic at hand. It leads me to believe you’re nothing more than another Blue WUM, which is a shame because you almost seemed reasonable for a moment there.
We started this debate by me stating that your points-per-game “analysis” was based on a bogus methodology. It’s not that I don’t “get it” its that your predictive model is, I’m sorry to say, schoolboy basic. Put up or shut up… do the research.
Posted by unregistered user: RedDevilInAz
Doing without Anderson is not necessarily a bad thing, for whatever reason he has not live up to him potential and I just do not see him being at the club next year.
Posted by unregistered user: RedDevilInAz
We can look as our schedule and compare it to Shyte’s schedule all we want but the simple true is that as long as we keep winning the pressure builds on Shyte and at present they do not know how to handle it. If we open a 4 point lead on them; Shyte will fold like a house of cards.
Shuddertothink – it’s a bogus methodology because you’ve made a false correlatory assumption about future performance based on very limited past data (average points total or, more loosely “form” (your words, not mine)). How is that personal? I am quite rationally dismissing your thesis. Nothing irrational about it. It’s certainly not personal on my part. I don’t have an opinion about you personally.
Greater sample size does not give you more accurate predictions on future outcome. Factually incorrect unless, ceteris paribus, you have a control group and the methodology allows for better results. I think what you’re searching for here in any case is not accuracy but relevancy.
You are “ignorant” about data construction, research and manipulation. Sorry if you’re offended but the first definition I come across in a dictionary is “lacking in knowledge or training”, which in my opinion is clear. There are a lot of things I’m ignorant about!
I don’t have the time or inclination to do this research and I don’t know the outcome. But I’m defending an opinion (that the momentum is with United, that City “possibly, maybe” blew the title”). You’re defending a stated fact based on data. You started this debate by saying that City would get to 90 points, United 89 and that this was simply what “the statistics tells us” as if, fait accompli, there’s nothing but truth in that. I’ve said your methodology is wrong, because it is.
So how do we build a better study.
1) What’s the big picture, what do we want to understand? A. which club is more likely to have the greater points total at the end of the season.
2) Assess what data is relevant to that outcome. I’d suggest “form” of two teams, past performance of two teams, past performance of similar teams in a similar situation (to assess reaction to external factors like pressure, for example), performance of the individuals involved, and importantly time series data rich enough to build a suitable regression analysis model.
3) This is an iterative process… you build in layers of data and detail, test the model against past results, refine.
4) Once we have decided and refined coefficients for all these layers of details, you peer review to see if the model produces relevant results, and forecasts.
Finally – Blue WUM. Blue (as in City supporting) Wind Up Merchant: deliberately posting contrary comments in order to get a reaction. At that, we should end this here. I’m sure the readers are bored. I am.
Posted by unregistered user: DeadRevel
“Man Utd are on course for 89 points and man city 90 using points per game projections for home and away form”
What a load of bollocks. Nothing is certain, but what is objective fact is that our run in is easier. Doesn’t mean we will win, but you can’t deny that.
Posted by unregistered user: DeadRevel
“Anderson is overrated”.
Sorry but that is nonsense. He is criticised massively by everyone so is definitely not overrated. I want him to come good but it’s probably not going to happen.
Still, his form with Clev in August / September was fantastic. And to say you’re glad he’s injured is ridiculous. If he wasn’t good enough, Ferguson wouldn’t play him anyway.
One of the reasons Citys form is stuttering, is because the form of Aguero, and Silva has dropped off lately... especially Silva.
He looked a certain "player of the year", earlier in the season... that's surely got to go to van Percie now.
Anyway... I think Mancini will turn to Tevez to rescue their season... if he comes good, and knocks in a few goals... it could lift the team, and drive them on to finish strongly... but the scrutiny surrounding his return could make things worse.
Personally I think Mancini would be better off sticking to his guns, and letting Tevez rot... it will send the right message to the rest of the squad... letting him off now, just because they're struggling a bit might even cause more friction in a team already on the edge.
Aye. Bringing back Tevez has dented Mancini's authority IMO. Imagine if Fergie went back on his word after stating that so & so would never play again. It wouldn't happen.
City are showing signs of cracking. Barry gave Platt a proper gob full of abuse when he was subbed in the first half - even though the sub was clearly the right thing to do under the circumstances.
Then there was the Balotelli/Toure bust up at half time, and general frustration and arm flapping during the game itself.
Throw Tevez into that mix and it could get a lot worse - unless they keep winning. That's the secret IMO. If everybody leaves the field smiling, it might work.
Well City's next league game is against Chelsea. Will be interesting to see how the Rent Boys get on after tonight's game against Napoli.
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