Only four weeks ago, following Man City’s losss to Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium, almost the whole of the soccer world were crowning Man Utd as Premier League Champions for the 20th time. Their massive eight point lead looked insurmountable especially given the experience and success of United’s wily old manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Even the bookmakers made them 1/40 favorites to lift the title, and when comparing both clubs’ remaining fixtures, no-one wanted to argue against that. All except Man City manager Roberto Mancini.
It appeared after that Arsenal game that Mancini had conceded the title himself to United as he claimed “it will be very difficult now” and in subsequent interviews wrote off City’s chances of affecting the outcome. To the educated observer though, it was pretty clear what was happening and it was straight out of Ferguson’s playbook. Mancini was sending a message to his players that he thought they were spent, and at the same time transferring the pressure over to United in the hope that they would crack under the weight of expectations. Ever since that day, United’s form has fallen apart while City, with the help of Carlos Tevez, have gone from strength to strength, culminating in last Monday’s win over their Old Trafford rivals. With both teams winning today, the trophy is firmly in City’s grasp now as a win at home against QPR next Sunday will see the League title return to Man City for the first time in 44 years.
The tactics used by Mancini here have proven successful and the fact that Ferguson usually wins these mind games, just ask Arsene Wenger, just adds to the Italian manager’s credibility as a managerial force worldwide. The psychological war heated up this week as Mancini commented that they were not yet favorites as he thought United would beat Swansea 10-0. It’s amazing that after the Arsenal loss, experts were speculating on whether he would survive the end of the season if City failed to win any trophies. Today, he is seen as the hero of their cause to unseat United and in my view, deserves all of the credit if they win at home to QPR next week. The season still has yet to be decided and a motivated Mark Hughes and QPR, who might need a only a draw to escape relegation depending on what happens in the Wigan vs Blackburn game on Monday night, could yet still have a say in what goes down.
How quickly fortunes change in the world of football.