So, *deep breath* it’s definitely back on. Two weeks ago, Manchester City were not just on the ropes but practically down and out. Having done enough bottling to open up a plant, the blues were left contemplating a yawning, embarrassing 8-point gap. Now, somehow, it’s back on. City have won three games on the trot, scoring 12 goals in the process and conceding 1, while United have alternated between ruthlessness and the sort of dramatic wobbles you just don’t associate with Ferguson’s team. A remarkably tight run-in beckons.
But let’s talk about Sunday’s games. I was certain the midday kickoff at Old Trafford would be a straightforward win for the home side, with Everton willing to receive a customary drubbing. It wasn’t to be though, with Moyes’ men showing the sort of attacking intent we rarely see from visitors to Old Trafford to come away with a remarkable and thoroughly deserved 4-4 draw. Suddenly, City had to play for more than just pride at Molineux. Given that our form since the Arsenal game was a result of a lack of pressure, it was hard to say how Mancini and the team would react to their new circumstances.
In the end, City got the win they needed (considering the dire form of Wolves, anything but 3 points would have prompted an inquest), if not by as wide a margin as predicted. It can’t be denied that City looked a touch nervous for most of this game, however. A fair number of overhit passes combined with a tendency to hoof it out of the box led to City gifting possession to the home side again and again, allowing them to bombard the City box. Thankfully, Kompany and Lescott were largely as reliable as ever, while Hart made a number of crucial saves to keep it at 1-0. The win is all that matters, ultimately, but City may need to regain some of the swagger seen at Carrow Road before they head to Newcastle.
The second goal was an indirect result of Tevéz dropping deep – as is his trademark – once again to collect the ball. Him and Davis fell over one another trying to gain possession, and the Wolves player was eventually penalised for climbing all over the Argentine. Tevéz took the free kick quickly, exchanging passes with Clichy before feeding Nasri in the penalty area, who slotted it past De Vries. After a spirited, fearless attempt to draw level, Wolves’ resistance finally broke, and it was essentially game over from that point onwards. City closed the gap at the top to 3 points, while Wolves were relegated.
City may need to regain some of the swagger seen at Carrow Road before they head to Newcastle.
It was impossible not to feel sorry for Wolves after the final whistle. City fans of my generation have experienced relegation more than once, and we know all too well just how crushing it is. Large swathes of the away support remained in the ground after the final whistle to clap the Wolves fans, a touching gesture of camaraderie and understanding which (judging by their tweets after the game) was appreciated.
As we head into the final three games of an excruciatingly nervy title run-in, it’s good to see the vast majority of City fans remember (or at least acknowledge) the old times. We could still win the title, which is incredible, but if we don’t, we should take comfort in the fact that we used to be bloody terrible. Now we’re guaranteed at least 2nd in the Premier League. Perspective.
But anyway, back to the present. After being dead and buried not too long ago, it’s impossible to not feel a surge of confidence now the title is in our hands again. However, there’s still a long way to go. The derby is almost impossible to predict, and while our momentum and being at home makes us favourites, United would be happy with a draw. It really is a must-win, and hopefully the team can channel that pressure into an outstanding performance. After that comes a thoroughly tough away trip to St. James’ Park (yes, I said St. James’ Park). With the Magpies fighting for a Champions League spot and the likes of Coloccini, Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Cissé in magnificent form, City will have to play at their absolute best to get a win.
With three games left, all the possible outcomes and permutations boil down to one fact for City: win every game, and we win the league. But that’s far from easy.
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