Manchester City fan’s said a long good bye to their title chances and Mario Balotelli yesterday after a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal saw them fall eight points behind Manchester United with just 18 points left to play for.
The last few weeks of City’s campaign has been marred by rumours of bust up’s, with yesterday no different as reports emerged of players confronting each other in the aftermath of a game that was settled by Mikel Arteta’s 87th minute winner and made worse by the sending off of Balotelli.
In his post-match conference City manager Roberto Mancini urged the FA to take a look at the Italians terrible challenge on Alex Song which was missed by the referee, an unusual stance by any manager regardless of how frustrating he finds a player, and also stated that this was Balotelli’s last game for the club.
Mancini’s future at City is also set to come under scrutiny at the season end especially in light of the indiscipline by two of his star strikers that all but ended their challenge. While their pre-christmas form suggested that they would not miss Carlos Tevez, their failure to rid themselves of the Argentine and find a suitable replacement have left open to the kind of childish behaviour that mars the obvious talent of Balotelli.
Balotelli has become a darling of the football media who love his crazy antics however the bottom line yesterday was that from the start he looked in destructive mood with Mancini’s failing being that he failed to recognise that and act on it. Something that his United counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, would not let happen.
Ferguson is adept at managing his players and at the first sign of trouble never shies away from pulling the biggest of egos off the field. Not that his United side are without headlines of their own. While United courted controversy in their win over QPR it is unlikely that Sir Alex will ask the FA to look at the decision that led to his side’s opener at Old Trafford.
Ashley Young’s theatrical fall from an offside position gifted Wayne Rooney his 29th of the season from the spot. QPR woes were compounded by the sending off of Shaun Derry all within the opening 15 minutes. Paul Scholes, the signing of the January transfer window, sealed a 2-0 win and edged United closer to the title with a lovely finish on 68 minutes.
With just six left in the season United are now in pole position with 11 points from 18 needed to secure back to back titles. A look at their run in suggests that Sir Alex won’t be worried too much with home games against Aston Villa and Everton (both of whom have a tendency to freeze when it comes to playing the Red Devils) and Swansea as well as away games to Wigan and Sunderland.
While Wigan were themselves victims of injustice at Stamford Bridge at the weekend and after an impressive showing against Chelsea will be out to make amends against United. Any team fighting for the lives will cause problems however United have a good record against Roberto Martinez side on Wednesday and should run out comfortable winners.
Sunderland away on the last day of the season won’t pose too much problems with Martin O’Neill’s side left with nothing to play for and already safe.
The same can be said for City who have a comparatively weak looking run in with games at home to WBA on Wednesday, United and QPR on the final day of the season, by which time Hughes side’s return to the Championship could be confirmed.
Away games against a Wolves side that can’t buy a win and Norwich again shouldn’t pose too many problems but as Swansea and Stoke have shown in recent week’s City are struggling on the road. A trip to Champions League chasing Newcastle won’t be easy either although Blues fans can take some solace from the fact that while the big showdown that Sky and Football wanted on April 29 is set to be a damp squid they should claim Manchester bragging rights with a double over their neighbours.
While that won’t be enough for City’s wealthy owners, they and the club’s support need despair however as given their squad not to mention their financial backing there is definitely a title to come sooner rather than likely, although it looks like it will be without Balotelli and Mancini.
V Wigan (A) 11/4
V Aston Villa (H) 15/4
V Everton (H) 22/4
V Man City (A) 29/4
V Swansea (H) 6/5
V Sunderland (A) 13/5
V West Brom (H) 11/4
V Norwich (A) 14/4
V Wolves (A) 22/4
V Man Utd (H) 29/4
V Newcastle (A) 6/5
V QPR (H) 13/5