Reds ride luck as pressure piles on City



One down, 11 to go in what could become one of the closest Premier League title races in recent years. Manchester United’s 3-1 victory at White Hart Lane on Sunday was not without good fortune, but three points will increase the pressure Roberto Mancini’s side. After all, rivals will note that United’s trip to Manchester City in April aside, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team faces 10 eminently winnable games in the Premier League.

Victory against Tottenham Hotspur came despite the home side enjoying more possession, territory and shots at goal, although media summary of the hosts ‘dominating’ the match in north London is entirely not borne out in the game’s statistics.

That said, this was one of the few occasions that United was out-passed this season, with the Spurs recording more than 500 passes in north London. The hosts also attempted three times as many shots at goal, although only six of 18 found the target – a telling statistic on a day when United converted 40 per cent of chances created by the visitors.

But those are mere details. The big picture – another three points for United in a hugely difficult away fixture – is far more important.

“It’s an entirely unbelievable result,” admitted Ferguson.

“I would say that’s our hardest away game of the season. They’d only lost one game; it was their first home game, I think, against City, when they had a few injury problems. That was the magnitude of our challenge today. And, in fairness, the first half we were never at the races. It was a great performance by Tottenham and maybe we got our tactics wrong in the first half.

“In the second half we improved, we told them at half-time to get pushed up on their back four and not let them build up their play. After the second goal we played very well. We had a bit of luck, and we scored right on half-time with our first shot on goal.

“Tottenham are a very good team and this is only their second defeat at home since the start of the season. It was a massive result.”

Indeed, the advantage may now just be with United, despite City’s narrow Premier League lead. After all, with just 11 games to go United now play just one of the present top six – City – and five of the bottom half-dozen. By contrast, the Blues face four of the top six, against just two of those near the foot of the table. City retains a two point lead and a healthy goal difference advantage, but the fixture list suggests this is anybody’s game.

It’s this situation that had Ferguson confidently predicting last week that United’s trip to Eastlands on 30 April is set up nicely as the clichéd title decider. Nothing about the result at White Hart Lane will change the legendary Scot’s viewpoint.

“We showed a determination to get the result,” Ferguson added.

“We’ve played all the big teams since January, it was a really busy spell and we’ve come through that and played well in most of the games We know exactly what we have to do. You can drop surprise points and I think both sides will, but the important thing is to drop less points than our opponents. A battling performance today tells you that we are up for it.”

United faces a resurgent West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford next, followed by a trip to the Midlands to face the sinking ship Wolverhampton Wanderers. The trip to City aside, Ferguson will look only to the final day match with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light as one where United could genuinely drops points.

Meanwhile, the Blues travel to Swansea City next weekend and then face managerless Chelsea at Eastlands in a fortnight. With the mutinous Chelsea dressing room having scored victory over yet another post-José Mourinho manager, the west Londoners may well now receive the ‘bump’ Roman Abramovich is seeking.

But it is to City’s trip to Arsenal that all eyes will now turn. Indeed, Arsène Wenger’s men have gone from hopeless to players in a matter of weeks. Should Robin van Persie remain fit, Mancini will know that points could be dropped at the Emirates.

Given the fixture programme the Eastlands derby could well see United having already taken over at the head of the Premier League table. Ferguson’s men may have pulled more than one rabbit out of the hat recently, but the Scot will be disappointed if United don’t put very close to maximum points on the board over the next eight games.

After all, the injury crisis that engulfed United during the winter is coming to an end, with only long-term absentees Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Vidić set to miss the run-in. Chris Smalling and Tom Cleverley will return in the coming week, while Michael Owen is available for selection and Anderson made the bench for United’s win at Tottenham.

Pressure is building though – a situation few of Mancini’s men have experienced, and certainly not as a group. Mancini, officially at least, has three Serie A titles. The first coming as Juventus was stripped of Serie A during Calciopoli, the next two with the Old Lady in Serie B. How the Italian will react during the presssure, drama and intensity of a Premier League run-in is, as yet, unknown.

Meanwhile, seven of Mancini’s players have won championships over the years: former Arsenal men Samir Nasri, Gaël Clichy, and Kolo Touré, together with Edin Džeko, Yaya Touré, Carlos Tévez and Nigel de Jong. But it is hard to see where Tévez or Kolo will feature during the run-in, while Nasri, Džeko and de Jong have spent more time on the bench than pitch this season. In truth, for Mancini’s most important players this is a first.

There will be swings over the next 11 games of course, but Ferguson will now be content with United’s position. That says much. For all City’s wealth, nothing buys the Scot’s experience.

“We’ve got experience. We won’t get nervous, we’re enjoying it,” Ferguson added. And on a day when United secured three points when frequently under the kosh, the Reds’ luck may be turning as well.

Remaining fixtures

UnitedCity
West Brom (H)Swansea (A)
Wolves (A)Chelsea (H)
Fulham (H)Stoke (A)
Blackburn (A)Sunderland (H)
QPR (H)Arsenal (A)
Wigan (A)West Brom (H)
Aston Villa (H)Norwich (A)
Everton (H)Wolves (A)
City (A)UNITED (H)
Swansea (H)Newcastle (A)
Sunderland (A)QPR (H)
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Comments

  1. I didn’t think we’d only drop 2 points (against Chelsea) over the run of games we’ve had – arsenal, pool, chavs, spurs etc. Nicely done.

  2. Stevie D says:

    Massive win today; very clinical. Well done Reds! Still think it’s advantage City, with them having the 2 points on the board. However it’s all to play for. I think it will go right down to last day of the season….possibly even goal difference.

  3. Sadly, after watching city on Saturday, I suspect they are on a run similar to that at the beginning of the year. Very very strong

  4. 19 and Counting says:

    We have been riding our luck but it just goes to show you how you can never write this United team off. It hasn’t been pretty, but getting the draw at Chelsea and the wins at Norwich and SPurs show our grit and determination and how SAF can continue to get the best out of a sub-par United squad.

  5. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    I’m feeling pretty good about our chances now.

    The Bitters will be sick to see us still on their tails… they must have thought we’d drop a lot more points than we have…

    We’ve by far, got the easier run in now… and if they choke… which they might… it’s even possible that we could lose at their shit hole and still finish top.

    What will be very interesting, is if Mancini feels desperate enough to use Tevez… that could win him the title… or blow up in his face.

  6. Commenter said:
    Sadly, after watching city on Saturday, I suspect they are on a run similar to that at the beginning of the year. Very very strong

    Yes but that’s City at home, where their record is fantastic.

    Away from home they’ve dropped 15 points (United have only dropped 9) and City have the following away games still to play: Swansea, Stoke, Arsenal and Newcastle. As well as Chelsea and United at home.

  7. So what about City’s home form
    It is great like, but so is our away form – it’s the best in the league
    And we’ve done em already at Wastelands
    I actually think the game against City will be a draw and they’ll fuck the title up elsewhere, if they’re gonna fuck it up
    I’m hopeful Swansea will get something

  8. Alfonso Bedoya said:
    I’m feeling pretty good about our chances now.

    The Bitters will be sick to see us still on their tails… they must have thought we’d drop a lot more points than we have…

    We’ve by far, got the easier run in now… and if they choke… which they might… it’s even possible that we could lose at their shit hole and still finish top.

    What will be very interesting, is if Mancini feels desperate enough to use Tevez… that could win him the title… or blow up in his face.

    he’ll definitely use Tevez.

  9. It’s probably good that City are playing Chelsea pretty soon. The Chelsea players might show up looking to prove something, and bash out a draw. I don’t even care about teams beating City, them dropping points is good either way.

  10. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    bman said:
    he’ll definitely use Tevez.

    Don’t be so sure… Him and Tevez never really mended their fallout… and as long as the results are coming Tevez will wait… and sulk.
    If things turn to shit, and Mancini gives Tevez the chance… will Tevez be ready?… he hasn’t played in months… and besides… there are the rest of the players, and the fans to consider… most of them would rather see the back of Tevez now.
    Ferguson wouldn’t let Tevez back in… neither would Mourinho, or any other strong manager… it will be a good test for Mancini… if things are going well, why risk upsetting the team vibe?… and if things are going badly, will Tevez be a fix or a hinderance?

    “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.”

  11. reddread says:

    Apparently Tevez turned ut for the reserves and lasted 45 mins. He wasfucked, by all accounts. Obviously match fitness will come, but sharpness etc? Not so sure. That’s if Mancini swallows his considerable pride and opts to play the little fuck, of course.

  12. I think so long as City keep winning they’ll be alright with Tevez – providing he’s prepared to accept the training set up and the managers decisions (e.g. coming on as a sub). If it gets tough, and tense, and people start questioning Mancini’s decisions then the wheels might come off again.
    I also think it dents Mancini’s authority as a manager. He said Tevez would never play for City again. He was adament. It makes me wonder who’s decision it was to bring him back. After watching that QPR documentary I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the owners who made the call.

  13. Because I’m a sad sack, I did a little analysis which is encouraging for the run-in. City dropped 8 points to the 11 teams they have left to play, but we only dropped 6 points to the teams we have left to play. City are playing 6 away matches and 5 home matches, but we’re only playing 5 away matches and 6 home matches. Plus, on the whole we are playing shittier teams, as we know. City scored 29 goals and conceded 8 agains their teams, we scored 25 and conceded 11.

    But things get better if you take the City-Utd game out of the equation. Then City dropped 8 points, but we only dropped 3. They scored-conceded 23-7, compared to our slightly better 24-5.

    Basically, if you think the Utd-City match is not a good precedent for the City-Utd match to come because you think our lads should be able to go and do a job and at least get a draw, then basically we should do ‘em.

  14. shame we fucked ourselves against blackburn in december after bringing it back to 2-2

  15. Brown man says:

    The Spurs game at the weekend illustrated what both clubs are about – Spurs don’t win ugly & therefore are never champions, we’re the opposite.
    I think we’ll do it, we’ve an easier run-in than City & it’ll be a draw on 30 April.

  16. The irony is that the point made in the article is what may exactly take the title away from us this season. We have played like total idiots against ‘smaller’ teams and at OT. Too many points dropped against these teams show a total complacency from UTD players in those matches. On the other hand we have played some superb matches (as far as the result is concerned I mean) against top teams. I’m sure we’ll put it a great performance against Shitty as well. But along the way we WILL drop points against the likes of West Brom, Sunderland, etc. The desire is simply not there any more in some of the older players. And we are not safe from any stupid injuries to players. And Fergie has not been too clever with team selection this year either – Blackburn is a case in point – Rafael in midfield and Carrick in defence!! And he had the effrontery to blame de Gea for that defeat!!
    It’s imply too hard to call but UTD simply doesn’t inspire the respect, fear and confidence it used to. But if Fergie wants it he’ll grind it out of his players…

  17. Commenter said:
    The irony is that the point made in the article is what may exactly take the title away from us this season. We have played like total idiots against ‘smaller’ teams and at OT. Too many points dropped against these teams show a total complacency from UTD players in those matches. On the other hand we have played some superb matches (as far as the result is concerned I mean) against top teams. I’m sure we’ll put it a great performance against Shitty as well. But along the way we WILL drop points against the likes of West Brom, Sunderland, etc. The desire is simply not there any more in some of the older players. And we are not safe from any stupid injuries to players. And Fergie has not been too clever with team selection this year either – Blackburn is a case in point – Rafael in midfield and Carrick in defence!! And he had the effrontery to blame de Gea for that defeat!!
    It’s imply too hard to call but UTD simply doesn’t inspire the respect, fear and confidence it used to. But if Fergie wants it he’ll grind it out of his players…

    desire is something which the younger players lack, not the older ones…..

    • DeadRevel says:

      No it’s not. What a strange thing to say. Only got to look at the twins, Jones, Smalling, Hernandez, Welbeck and Clevs to know that’s wrong. They are fired up.

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