When Manchester City collapsed at the Emirates, the title was all but gone. United were eight points clear, City’s positive goal difference had been shattered and Roberto Mancini had congratulated Ferguson and the rest of his red Devils on another Premiership success.
Two weeks later and the outlook on the title has changed dramatically - the gap is now only three points and City have restored their goal difference. In that time, the Blue’s have thrashed West Brom and Norwich as well as condemning Wolves to the Championship, meanwhile United lost to Wigan and were held by Everton. More importantly, all of this has coincided with the return of Carlos Tevez.
After Mario Balotelli was needlessly sent off against Arsenal, the then slightly rotund Argentine was thrust into City’s starting eleven and the Blue moon has been rising ever since. Tevez has been brilliant – he scored against West Brom, hit a hat-trick at Carrow Road and his quick thinking sealed the win against Wolves. His return has also awoken Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and others.
Despite this his antics in Munich during City’s first expedition with Europe’s elite will be extremely hard to forget for many fans. His refusal to appear off the bench saw him retire to the various golf courses of Buenos Aires for almost five months. Mancini et al did all they could to sell him in January, but no one would reach the clubs valuation, subsequently he apologised and since his return, has slowly worked his way back into the hearts and minds of the Etihad. He still remains a divisive figure amongst fans but surely all will be forgotten if he helps secure City’s first title since 1968.
Other factors have been equally as important. The return of the imperious Vincent Kompany has shored up the defence and the banishment of Balotelli looks to have brought the team closer together.
Beyond this, Mancini’s bizarre mind games have freed up his side and released the pressure from an emotional dressing room. In front of the cameras, the City manager continues to concede the title. He insists that United have inferior opponents and in doing so has cleverly shifted the pressure onto Rooney and co as well as fuelling the fire for Brendan Rodger’s and Martin O’Neill’s upcoming team talks.
The title is in both United’s and City’s hands and all looks set to be decided on Monday night after one of the most anticipated Manchester derbies in years. Only three points will do for City, otherwise the title race is all but over. United’s subsequent fixtures are against two teams with nothing to play for, while City face a resurgent Newcastle United heading towards a return to Champion’s league football.
Whatever happens on Monday night and at the end of the season, one thing can be for sure. People will again be talking about Carlos Tevez – was his absence the reason for Manchester United’s thirteenth Premiership title or the reason for Manchester City’s first.