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Manchester United leave it late to defy mystic Mancini

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Phil McNulty | 08:18 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2012

At Ewood Park

Roberto Mancini must now fear Manchester City’s Premier League title challenge will go the same way as his prediction that Manchester United would draw at Blackburn Rovers – and come up agonisingly short.

City manager Mancini, perhaps clutching at straws, suggested Blackburn might take points off United as some belated compensation for his own team's shortcomings in allowing Sunderland to leave Etihad Stadium with a draw on Saturday.

And for 81 minutes at Ewood Park Mancini’s luck held as Blackburn fulfilled his prophecy and United struggled to make the breakthrough that would have put clear daylight between themselves and their neighbours.

It all changed, with an air of inevitability, in the space of five minutes late on as Antonio Valencia’s swerving finish and Ashley Young’s precision strike gave United a 2-0 win that had a fired-up Sir Alex Ferguson ending his night as it began, with a fist-pumping salute to 7,000 travelling supporters.

Manchester United

Manchester United players celebrate Antonio Valencia's late goal at Ewood Park. Photo: Getty

The gap is now five points - not insurmountable of course, but it is hard not to detect a decisive shift in momentum from The Etihad to Old Trafford at this crucial phase of the season, with United gathering speed at the very moment City are losing this precious commodity.

In this most unpredictable season it would be folly to announce the end of the race with 21 points to play for, but the scenes of celebration from all those with United connections as Howard Webb sounded his final whistle betrayed their unspoken belief that a crucial blow had been struck.

United won the title with a draw here last season and, while there was no such certainty with this result, they are now separated from City by a margin of some significance.

With United facing struggling QPR at Old Trafford on Sunday before City visit Arsenal, there is the realistic prospect that Mancini’s side could kick off at The Emirates eight points behind and knowing only victory will do.

Try as you might and as risky as it may be, it is now hard to escape the inevitable conclusion that United will go on to claim a 20th title.

It is a statistic that may just bring almost as much pain to Liverpool - as they are stuck on 18 - as it will to City, who surely believed only a few weeks ago that it was their destiny to claim the crown this season.

City now face the possibility, unless there is another dramatic twist in this turbulent campaign, of welcoming United to The Etihad on Monday 30 April in entirely different circumstances than they had hoped.

This was meant to be a title decider, or even a public demonstration of the shift in the balance of Manchester's footballing power. Circumstances must change almost immediately for that scenario to unfold.

It may not end up being a dead rubber but the galling prospect for City is that, unless they can fashion a way of erasing United’s healthy advantage sharpish, then they may be welcoming Ferguson’s men into their home with the race almost run. And without the finish they wanted.

This would be close to unpalatable after a season of such promise, but the urgency – indeed, mounting desperation - of their situation will have been brought home to Mancini in those closing moments at Blackburn.

City have illuminated this season with some of their football and there is no question they are closer to being champions than they were at this time last year, but they have faltered crucially in recent weeks with United at their shoulder.

With timing perfected over years, United have come with a run of seven straight league wins that have allowed them to prey on any uncertainties and poor results just a few miles away at City.

And as some of City’s key performers such as David Silva have dipped, United’s pivotal players have come to the fore.

Wayne Rooney has been outstanding in recent weeks – surely a serious contender for Footballer of the Year should United with the title – but at Ewood Park the plaudits went elsewhere.

Valencia’s explosive strike was the game’s defining moment, swerving past Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson in a moment when he might reflect he could have done better.

It was deserved reward for an outstanding performance from the winger, the game's stand-out player.

He was a creator for so much of the game, athletic and powerful, then when his colleagues failed to profit from his supply line Valencia simply did the job himself. This is a player growing swiftly in stature with the prospect of developing further.

United’s other hero was a young man who has been criticised here before, so deserves his praise even more to redress that balance.

There is a line that can be drawn between goalkeeper David de Gea’s flimsy performance in Blackburn’s 3-2 win at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve and his outstanding contribution on Monday – and it may just chart his progress towards becoming a worthy successor to Edwin van der Sar.

After his nerve-riddled showing against Liverpool at Anfield in United’s FA Cup defeat, De Gea carried all the hallmarks of being mentally shot.

And yet he has emerged from this dark place to look like the goalkeeper Ferguson staked so much on when he bought him from Atletico Madrid.

Not all is perfect. He will still be tested physically because of his relatively slight frame and was fortunate a second-half fumble from Morten Gamst Pedersen’s free-kick went unpunished, but elsewhere the young Spaniard was agile, spectacular and above all reliable in United’s moments of need.

Two saves in particular, on the stroke of half-time, were testimony to his increasing assurance. He sprung to save brilliantly from Marcus Olsson and was equally athletic to turn away Grant Hanley’s header.

“He got a grip of it and stood up like a man, said Ferguson about De Gea’s rebuilding of his confidence since his last meeting with Blackburn.

So United pulled out of Ewood Park have pulled further away from Manchester City – and if Mancini was tempted to take another glance into his crystal ball he may not have liked what he saw.

Comments

Page 1 of 10

  • Comment number 1.

    I do like how City keep saying mind games are pointless, and then every other day a new story from them appears in the press about United.


    The only thing they seem to be doing at the moment is mind-gaming themselves.

    Still not over yet though I fancy there may be a few twists yet.

  • Comment number 2.

    Why couldn't we have a lets all laugh at Liverpool blog at the weekend.

  • Comment number 3.

    At 79 mins I was wondering if Mancini had matched Sir Alex with mind games of his own. Had to laugh at myself for that.

    Utd have unbelievable strength this time of the year. It has worked for them so many times before and looks like doing the trick again.

    Meanwhile City are looking like a souffle that's been taken out of the oven too soon. I can't see them recovering from here. And if Arsenal roll them it could even mean a fight for second.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Get in! Thats all I'm ganna say

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 8.

    @dogeared

    1. I think you mean 'their'

    2. To what decisions, specifically, are you referring? Maybe the harsh booking for Valencia? Or the award of a dangerously placed FK to Blackburn for a legal tackle from Scholes?

  • Comment number 9.

    If Man City don't beat Arsenal on Sunday, then you'd have to say the title race is over. As it is, both teams are guaranteed to drop points in their 'easy' games here and there, and that derby could still be decisive...

  • Comment number 10.

    Fair play to Utd, they battered Blackburn the whole game and deserved to win, don't think anyone can deny that.

    If Utd do go on to win the title it would surely have to rank as one of their best given how much crazy money Man City have thrown around. And people said this Utd team was poor. What does that say about City?

  • Comment number 11.

    This is what United are all about when it matters we always perform, ten wins in eleven says it all with the only blip being the 3-3 draw at Chelsea. It's no coincidence that Valencia has been in the team for the majority of those games, he is twice the player Nani is. Valencia and Young have to start on the flanks now but the concerning thing about this season is the lack of form Nani has shown his back to his bad old ways of one game great the he goes missing for three games then he has a great game where as Valencia is always on his game and Young is great when his 100% fit. No doubt City's time will come and us United fans have to prepare are selves for them winning a title or two but at the end of the day they will end up just like Chelsea and look at them now!

  • Comment number 12.

    @PulpGrape

    Tbh, I think this whole thing about this United team being poor is a bit of a myth. Ever since Ronaldo left, there's been this false perception about a lack of world-class talent in the ranks. That may be so (see Europe), but there's enough quality in depth for the Premier League, for now.

    What does it say about City? I think, thus far, only that they're no more than a sum of their parts. If Mancini can keep the squad together, they'll represent even more of a threat next season as they start to gel and learn each others' games. They're not going anywhere.

  • Comment number 13.

    Of all people, Viera should have known better, playing mind games with SAF is like adding fuel to a fire. You can excuse Mancini, this is his 1st year (or is it 2nd??), but you cant excuse Platt and Viera. And that is the difference between Viera and Henry...one went to help out his old team, the other went where the $$ flashed - and of all sudden, he is a blue?!

    SAF has adapted good technique this season - he let everyone else roll out, win day in day out in games but he just took one game at a time. People forget how well he did with Utd, with numerous amount of injuries in the team - Vidic, Jones, Welbeck, Chicarito, Young, The De Silva Brothers, Cleverly...and despite of that, he pulled one result after another. It didnt surprise me we were kicked out of all the competitions - yes, true, we played below par, but given the injuries we have had, it can be forgiven...and finally criticism that De Gea had - now he is the commanding player in his area. He kept Utd in the title challenge in last few games, lets face it without him, we could have been trailing 2, 3 goals to nil.

    As one of the commentors said above, the fat lady aint singing yet. This weekend a game with QPR and City playing Arsenal. City's away records havent been great and Arsenal have been in good form - so there has to be twist this weekend. Only then one can tell if United have sealed the League....

    All the best United. We are right behind you and we will support through and through (without having to use the Y.A.W.N)!

  • Comment number 14.

    This shows the difference between United and City though, they keep going and just don't ever give up. They have been a different team since the City drubbing, wish we hadn't won that one in hind sight.

    I still think this is not the best United team, however they have a class strike force and two outstanding wingers to get the ball into the box, if they get a strong midfielder and another central defender I think they will be a force for a long time. City need two wingers that perform consistently, Tevez out of the club and maybe Ballotelli to get his head together on the pitch every game.

    As you say City have not played great in 2012 and United have just got on with the job and that is why they are champions year in and year out. Maybe next year!

  • Comment number 15.

    #8
    Or maybe the decision to not even book N'Zonzi for a deliberate slap in Scholes face about a yard away from him?

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    12.

    I agree. Mancini will lose his job at the end of the season and rightly so for a change. Chelsea were winning at least one trophy per season for all the money they spent but City will end up with nothing.

    While on a personal level its not great to see Utd winning the league every season, it does provide some comfort knowing that these teams with rich owners who try to buy the league title dont often suceed in doing so.

  • Comment number 18.

    Looking at each teams remaining fixtures one can only draw the conclusion that Man City's only way to win now would be if Man UTD were suddenly overcome with a great sense of charity. City will have to be brilliant to get anything at Arsenal & one also has to doubt they will get much at Newcastle as well.

    Just wonder who their Manager will be next season. :)

    'Yes, I'm the great pretender oo, oo, oo, oo.'

    Nice try but no cigar! Just goes to show that money does NOT guarantee success.

  • Comment number 19.

    as is usual united have talked themselves, and everyone else into another title, with of course all the help required to achieve this, given so graciously by the officials, yet again.

    ------------------------------------------------

    You've got to love the bitterness from the Gooners. Comments as pathetic as their teams attempts to win anything.

  • Comment number 20.

    McNulty: "with United gathering speed at the very moment City are losing this precious commodity."

    Speed or momentum? I think City still look quite pacy...

    Funny how the return of some of your better players coincides with an improvement in your performance. As far as United being poor this year, it's not that we're poor, just the squad isn't as strong as has been, and it has been hindered by injuries to key individuals.

    Midfield must (and surely will) be improved. Even if Giggs and Scholes can muster the same level next year, you can't assume they will be able to wear another full season. Carrick will be unlikely to reach the same level again either, and the jury is still out on Anderson after all this time.

    But City have only their manager to blame. He fell out with one of the most important players, as an excuse to cover his own failings, and has failed to control other key members of the squad. Whereas Chelsea bought a strong squad to win the league, City have spent far more, bought a huge number of "names" and failed to gell them.

    Long may he stay in post.

  • Comment number 21.

    For United its 3 more points and onto the next game. But its not just the points advantage they have, they also seem focussed and together, while Man City seem confused and at odds with each-other, including the manager.

    They need a big win to get themselves going again, but you would have expected the Chelsea result to give them that platform - instead they have sunk further since then.

    There are questions over City if they don't win it this time round. This squad was built to win the title now, not in 2 years time. Will Balotelli and Tevez stay, will Silva get tempted back to Spain, etc? And will Mancini be given another chance by the owners, given his apparent lack of control at the moment?

    It could be time for another loss making clear out but City are drifting closer to Chelsea territory where they keep spending big money just to try and stand still.

  • Comment number 22.

    6.At 09:59 3rd Apr 2012, dogeared wrote:
    The match could have gone either way, it was just a case of who got the lucky goal first.

    Of course United always had Webb there as back up.
    ==============================================================
    Sour grapes...........

    I for one had a bet on for Valencia to score the first and United to win 2-0, at 80mins i was looking at the docket wondering why did i put valencia to score first. £120 up

  • Comment number 23.

    It's been looking like United's title for weeks now. City's away form has not been good enough and it's only the fact their home form has been unblemished (until last Saturday) that has kept them up there.
    City cannot handle pressure which is borne out by Mancini's increasingly odd behaviour. Also there is a distinct lack of team spirit and with the likes Of Balotelli and Tevez causing divisions it is little wonder.
    It's a shame really as it would be good to see another team other than United win the title. City have brought this all upon themselves though and will engender little sympathy from others particularly given the vast sums they have spent in order to 'buy' the title.

  • Comment number 24.

    Wanted to comment on Veira too. Respected him lots as an Arsenal player but since he got pound signs in his eyes and somehow overnight turned into a loyal blue, he has shown himself up to be an idiot blinded by his pay check. City would do well to relieve him of his duties too.

  • Comment number 25.

    On the subject of Liverpool, I would just like to point people back the blog author's initial predictions for the season: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/philmcnulty/2011/08/my_premier_league_201112_predi.html

    Specifically, Liverpool (4th), Newcastle (15th), Swansea (19th).

  • Comment number 26.

    Well the league is still to be settled but I can't help but feel one of the big two managers in Spain will be leaving their clubs in the summer and Man City's owners may be tempted by them even with a league title.

    Man for man I think Man City's team is better but Ferguson is proving to be the best again.

  • Comment number 27.

    @8

    No, read it again. Webb was there as back up - just in case United didn't get the lucky goal ;o)

    And just where was Robinson for that first goal? Horrific clanger to let that in. Young's was a peach though.

    I think it's a shame Blackburn parked the bus, because they looked as if they could win this match - if they'd had more of a go then United would have crumbled, just like they did in Europe when teams don't sit back all scared.

  • Comment number 28.

    Teams promoted to the Premier League often do well at first, but fade as their game becomes familiar to other teams (notable exceptions this year with Swansea and Norwich). I think City are now finding it much tougher as the other teams are learning how to play against their newish and undoubtedly talented squad. Couple this with a heavy reliance on David Silva who is now fading having played so many games and we can all see the result.
    It could be worse next season as the novelty factor won't be the same. Has the blue moon peaked already, is it going into steady decline? Whilst Sir Alex is yet again building a strong young team capable of challenging for years to come.

  • Comment number 29.

    Tevez out in the summer, possibly Balotelli too. They won't sack Mancini. Maybe if he fails next year. To get second successive CL spot and finish runners up in the EPL is good. If he replaces the players he sells wisely City has a real chance next year.

    @Kanchelskis - If you are going to correct people's grammar on a forum (always unwise) at least make sure there (not their) is a mistake to correct.

  • Comment number 30.

    #13 Actually have a look at what Vieira says in his two interviews, to say his comments are taken out of context is an understatement. Regarding Scholes, he paid tribute to what a great player he was etc before saying basically that it's not ideal to have to bring a 37-year old out of retirement. Perfectly legitimate comment, no mention of "desperation". Regarding the favourable decisions, he stressed on numerous occasions that he wasn't exclusively referring to United, and that he didn't even see the game. The fact that it was given at a charity event speaks volumes about the integrity of the reporter putting numerous questions like that before him. The reality is that Ferguson would clearly love to create a bit of a media fuss about the comments, so the BBC reported them ridiculously out of context to let him do that.

    As for de Gea, he is the keeper he has been all along. Making some great saves doesn't make him more commanding. He has shown excellent shot-stopping ability, and has made some improvements in other areas but still has massive weaknesses that have been sheltered rather than eradicated. For example, the first of his two saves before half-time: a better keeper would have either caught/punched the throw, or if not made the decision to stay on their line and then it would have been straight at him: instead he came rushing out, got nowhere near it and was out of position.

    Of course, it's all about perspective. People talk up Michel Vorm wildly while criticising de Gea, who is a better keeper. It's all about what you expect of a keeper at a top club. Vorm is very poor at dealing with crosses (as evidenced by not coming for the 2nd or 3rd goal against Spurs, and on numerous occasions this season), but people ignore that when they see his camera saves.

    Another problem is people seem hell-bent on judging keepers (and players) only on recent form. De Gea hasn't suddenly changed drastically just because he hasn't dropped a clanger in a couple of games and because Ferguson says so, just like Reina hasn't become a poor keeper because of one bad season.

  • Comment number 31.

    Watching DDG last night reminds me of Heurelho Gomes of spurs. He is good when it comes to reflex saves but does not have the consistency of a good keeper.

  • Comment number 32.

    Rooney's goals have been vital in the run since New Year but two other players should get most of the credit.

    Valencia - supplier of many and scorer of a few crucial goals.
    Evans - a rock at the back in the continued absence of Vidic.

  • Comment number 33.

    @19


    cue following any criticism levelled at your club as " bitterness "

    i'm not sure which one us needs to change the record.

    perhaps you should just accept that contrary to what your username suggests.....

    not all of us follow united and in many cases are sick and tired of either hearing or reading about them, regardless wether Arsenal have won anything or not.

  • Comment number 34.

    I thought that all the Blackburn fans leaving en mass after the first goal was a bit harsh, I mean they had played well up to that point, managed to contain the champions for most of the game, created a couple of chances and were undone by a superb individual effort - nothing to be angry about at all.

  • Comment number 35.

    This nonsense about ''mind games'' is a media-perpetuated myth. They have absolutely no relevance to how a match or season pans out.

    A perfect example of this, is the revisionist slant on Kevin Keegan's notorious rant. The way that the media go on, you'd believe that Keegan's explosive outburst was as a direct response to Ferguson's words, when, in actual fact, they were merely a result of Newcastle's self-inflicted bottling.

    Whatever we say about Manchester United, they are the biggest team in England and one of the biggest in the world, therefore many players feel an honour and pride representing them. Compare that to City, a middling club in the Sheffield Wednesday mold, who nobody outside England knew or cared much about before Sheikh Mansour's takeover. Consequently, you get a collection of moolah-chasing mercenaries, with no interest or pride in the club or city (although, if you've ever been unfortunate enough to go to Manchester, you can fully understand the latter), playing like a motley collection of mercenaries do. That's the reason why City have lost the title - nothing to do with ''mind games''. :rollseyes:

  • Comment number 36.

    #28 It's not that people have figured out how to play against them, if they were playing as they were in the first half of the season they'd still be comfortably top. The problem is that they're just playing poorly, feeling the heat most likely. Also, for the fantastic array of talents in their squad, Mancini has failed to get the best out of them. United have had players like Young to bring off the bench who will play at his best, the likes of Nasri, Dzeko and co are brilliant players but when called upon to come into the side have been unable to play anywhere near their best. Useless having a great squad if you can't get the best out of the subs.

  • Comment number 37.

    It seems Valencia is finally getting some credit for his form. Prior to his recent hamstring injury he was tearing everyone apart and there was barely a mention of this. Comes back and all of a sudden United look like they're gonna create something whenever they get the ball to him

  • Comment number 38.

    PHIL

    All this does is ensure we are back in the CL next year, as Chelski in 5th can't overtake us. They could overtake Citeh, as could Newcastle & Arsenal, but it would be pretty unlikely for that to happen. Wouldn't it?

    It does increase the chances of our winning the Title, admittedly, but doesn't put it anywhere near in the bag, as Fergie will no doubt be telling everyone again come 13:25 on Sunday.

    No doubt everyone noticed the handball by a Blackburn defender in the first half. Howard Webb ruled that ball to hand, unlike Citeh's against Chelski, which was almost identical. Which ref do you think got it right? Yes, Howard Webb, against Utd., so no more of these stories about offical help.

  • Comment number 39.

    Did United beat a team in the relegation zone or one of the best teams in the world last night??

    i cant make my mind up as the 'fans' seem to be going absolutely mental over this, well done you beat Blackburn Rovers. Im more worried about our next game.........away to Arsenal (of which im going as im not a plastic)

    well dont to United though, never gave up and got their rewards last night, thought Blackburn if they had a little more self belief could have nicked it.

    De Gea had a great game.

  • Comment number 40.

    not all of us follow united and in many cases are sick and tired of either hearing or reading about them, regardless wether Arsenal have won anything or not.

    ========

    Strange thing to do, coming onto a united blog to talk about United if you're sick of it

  • Comment number 41.

    29.At 10:28 3rd Apr 2012, SwissColony wrote:
    Tevez out in the summer, possibly Balotelli too. They won't sack Mancini. Maybe if he fails next year. To get second successive CL spot and finish runners up in the EPL is good. If he replaces the players he sells wisely City has a real chance next year.

    ------------------------------

    Rubbish. When you spend more than £200m on players and throw extortianate wages at them to recruit as money mercenaries there is no excuse to not win the league.

  • Comment number 42.

    #27 - United need to improve in Europe next year and the younger players need to learn from the failure of this season. But don't read too much into 1 bad season, especially the Europa league performances when they were clearly prioritising the premiership. They've still been in 3 or the last 4 champs league finals which is head and shoulders above anyone other than Barca.

  • Comment number 43.

    "not all of us follow united and in many cases are sick and tired of either hearing or reading about them, regardless wether Arsenal have won anything or not."


    Could you please enlighten me as to what you expected to find on a blog about the game last night, I am confused.

  • Comment number 44.

    not all of us follow united and in many cases are sick and tired of either hearing or reading about them

    --------------------------------------------

    If you're that sick and tired of us, don't comment.

    But for some reason, you just can't resist....

  • Comment number 45.

    anybody thinking Blackburn would get a result ? needs their head examined !

    Fulham would have got a result but for........

    dare we mention it ? a Referee at OT.

  • Comment number 46.

    Mancini's prediction of a loss/dropping points is a close to desperation as it can get. The same man who said bringing Scholes back to the team smirked of a desperate Manchester United. Well.....

    Valencia's shot was one of legend and served as the right gift for his remarkable performance. De Gea too, as you noted, was awesome between the posts and almost took off while saving those shots.

    Great blog by the way...

  • Comment number 47.

    #39
    If you look at United's record at Ewood Park over the last few years, you'll see why it's considered a good result.

    It is their Cup Final after all.

  • Comment number 48.

    29.At 10:28 3rd Apr 2012, SwissColony

    Sell Balotelli? why....getting rid of one of the hottest prospects in football ???

    no thanks.

  • Comment number 49.

    I often read your articles Phil, but rarely comment.

    Perhaps my being on Easter holidays has given me time to contribute or perhaps I have just been more moved to comment on some of your more outlandish statements...

    Rooney for footballer of the year if/WHEN United go on to win the league? That's preposterous; the footballer of the year should be given to the player who's contribution to their team has been the stand out one in the league, whether their team is champions, mid-table or relegated. If United win the league it won't be thanks to Rooney; he's not been the stand out player for them this year but in your limited imagination you suggest that he has - why? Valencia has been sensational this year, despite his critics, Rio has been colossal, Giggs evergreen, Scholes whilst only cameo, in my opinion has wrestled the championship from City's clutches with his impactful contribution.

    Whilst I value your opinion always (you know more about the game than most), your succumbing to an unimaginative suggestion like that shows nothing but "band-wagoning" of the highest order. We want YOUR opinion, not a half-baked suggestion that because United are now on an almighty roll, that their 'star player' should be rewarded the accolades. It's boring!


    David De Gea point - ok he is much improved and his agility is frighteningly good, but the criticism he received earlier in the season was most definitely warranted. He looked like a man aware of his task; which was to fill VDS' huge boots - daunting no? He's still a mile off it in my opinion but his shot stopping really is of the highest order. Perhaps that criticism that was so free-flowing has been the source of his improvement? It inspires some people you know...

    Oh, as for player of the year. RVP? YaYa? Da Silva? Baines? Valencia? They're in my order by the way.

  • Comment number 50.

    @pulpgrape

    I agree that there should be a return on the investment, but expecting instant returns is unreasonable. Chelsea has demonstrated that just throwing money at the team and expecting the CL or PL to come to you doesn't work anymore. There needs to be some consitency and a little patience. Like I said, if Mancini fails to deliver next year he'll probably be out, but I expect him to be given the chance to go one better than this year.

  • Comment number 51.

    @36 My point is that I think one of the reasons they are not playing as they did at the start of the season is that the other teams aren't letting them - they realise they can be stopped if you chase them down. Not saying I'm right, just my opinion.

  • Comment number 52.

    Also, what does this say about the standard of the EPL? The worst Manchester United side in living memory (outplayed and humiliated by a Swiss side and a mid-table Spanish team) still manage to turn the EPL into yet another one-horse procession. :yawnsloudly:

  • Comment number 53.

    #39 - United won a tough away game at a crucial point of the season, at a ground where they have a pretty poor record. And they were playing a team who are fighting hard against the drop and who won at Old Trafford. So no, technically not an amazing result, but that's not the point - if City won away games like this they'd be looking a lot more likely for the title.

    For the record though, we did win at the Emirates this season. I wonder if City will...

  • Comment number 54.

    #48
    Is he though? He's a good penalty taker admittedly but other than that, he's had more bad games than good and seems a massive liability to the point where his manager admits he can't trust him.

    In at least 4 games this season he hasn't even tried.

  • Comment number 55.

    @ #45
    Whilst agreed that Fulham should have been given a penalty at OT last weekend (but with the way the ball moved can see why it wasn't given)

    Does this negate the penalty that Newcastle were given at OT when Ferdinand got the ball...

    SO if we change the results around MUFC 1 - 0 Newcastle, then MUFC 1- 1 Fulham

    there.. that better?

  • Comment number 56.

    #53. whatbill

    we already have so im sure we can again.

  • Comment number 57.

    @signori

    Very true, but his antics cause a distraction. I don't want him to leave as he's a good player to watch (I'm Oxford Utd btw - no allegiances in the EPL) it's just I can see him leaving.

  • Comment number 58.

    42.At 10:35 3rd Apr 2012, whatbill wrote:

    But don't read too much into 1 bad season, especially the Europa league performances when they were clearly prioritising the premiership.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Behave yourself.

    How were they ''clearly prioritising the Premiership''? Because they got thrashed home and away by Athletic? :rollseyes:

    If they were prioritising the EPL, then Ferguson would have played his League Cup team.

  • Comment number 59.

    #45
    Fulham could have had a penalty yes. But the two points we'd have lost there could have been replaced by the two lost against Newcastle thanks to.....

    Dare we say it? A referee at OT.

  • Comment number 60.

    48.At 10:41 3rd Apr 2012, signori wrote:
    29.At 10:28 3rd Apr 2012, SwissColony

    Sell Balotelli? why....getting rid of one of the hottest prospects in football ???

    no thanks.

    ------------------------

    We've been hearing this for two years now. When is he going to prove that hes a "hot prospect"? The only prospects he has involve the writing of newspaper headlines. He's a clown in the middle of the circus.

  • Comment number 61.

    David De Gea point - ok he is much improved and his agility is frighteningly good, but the criticism he received earlier in the season was most definitely warranted.

    ===


    Rubbish it was. The guy was being described as the worst keeper in the league, a joke signing and one who would disappear. 20 year old, in his season in English football, and people like you think you were justified saying he was a flop who should be sold at first opportunity

  • Comment number 62.

    #54. We all follow United

    thats your opinion though, and plus your a United fan so i dont expect you to

    1. understand
    2. agree
    3. care

    Balotelli has the *potential to be one of the best in the world.

    *please note i have said potential here, so before people start writing with caps lock on please take note.

  • Comment number 63.

    #60. PulpGrape

    the lads 21 years of age and has scored 13 goals this season in a rotation system, that to me is good enough, cut out some of the silly bookingsand he's doing just fine for me.

  • Comment number 64.

    Behave yourself.

    How were they ''clearly prioritising the Premiership''? Because they got thrashed home and away by Athletic? :rollseyes:

    If they were prioritising the EPL, then Ferguson would have played his League Cup team.

    =============

    Why don't you behave yourself? This is the same squad that had got to 3 previous CL finals, so they must have done something right. The European football this season was a bit of a travesty, and teams who moved the ball quickly and pressed high up the pitch had plenty of joy against United who didn't have a rock solid defence containing vidic and ferdinand in form to keep the goals out.

    Credit to those teams, but only an idiot will think United won't come back stronger next season

  • Comment number 65.

    48.At 10:41 3rd Apr 2012, signori wrote:

    Sell Balotelli? why....getting rid of one of the hottest prospects in football ???
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Balotelli is talented, but he's hardly ''one of the hottest prospects in world football''. He's one of the most unprofessional players you'll see.

    There's a reason why no big clubs have ever been interested in him, and why Barcelona wouldn't touch him with a bargepole.

  • Comment number 66.

    I've taken 'stick' from two friends who are city supporters all season.. and deservedly so really, they have been the better team.. but from day one we all agreed, this is the time of year that team after team, after team have bottled it when it came to beating Utd to the line.
    I really do think now that teams almost expect Man Utd to score in the last ten minutes, especially when they most need it.. it's almost like it is written in the stars.. and so of course.. time after time.. it happens..
    I thought Blackburn did very well last night, and that they may have even held out on another night.. but this is UTD, and the team below us is City..
    I've watched my team for 40 years now and I don't think they are going to blow this now... and all this... almost all of this.. without one certain fullback..
    This one is for Nemanja!

  • Comment number 67.

    Your disdain for United is visceral, Phil.

    Never mind, you've always got the Carling Mug.

  • Comment number 68.

    pains me to say it but hat's off to UTD! not quite over yet but theirs to lose!

    Fergie will retire one day though.....CTID

  • Comment number 69.

    #62
    Of course football is all opinions and not fact (unless you're a rotund manager of Liverpool) but I just don't see this vast 'potential'. Has he got magical skill? No. Has he got blistering pace? No. Is he a one chance one goal finisher? No. Does he at least put 100% effort in every game? No. Does he look more likely to get sent off than score? A lot of the time, yes.

    With the funds City have, they could do a lot better than him.

  • Comment number 70.

    I do wonder with the Champions League and Europa League this year if some of the players have thought progressing is just a case of turning up.

    If they did then those players have no place at Manchester United regardless of who they are.

  • Comment number 71.

    68. swindonbluearmy

    As a Swindon fan myself I really hope your name does not suggest that you're a Man City fan from Swindon.

  • Comment number 72.

    64.At 10:53 3rd Apr 2012, Kapnag wrote:
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It's not really the same squad. Giggs is deteriorating year by year, Jones is a liability, Evans will never be good enough and Cleverly and Welbeck are mid-table EPL level, at best. Berbatov doesn't feature anymore, they've lost solid squad players like O'Shea and Brown and brought a clearly over-the-hill Scholes out of retirement (although, he was never up to much, even when he was on top of the hill.)

    Also, I hope United fans realise that this ''3 finals in 4 years'' mantra is starting to sound like the straw-clutching desperation of Liverpool fans.

  • Comment number 73.

    #69.We all follow United

    that is of course your opinion, mine differs.
    Hearing professionals talk about him as a kid and the things he is capable of is enough for me. In time we will tell i guess, as a United fan i dont expect anything other than hatred of the player.

  • Comment number 74.

    #9

    Indeed the Manchester Derby on 30th April will be decisive...................Decisive enough for Manchester United to win the league and be crowned champions at the Etihad Stadium.

    Now wouldn"t that be a twist


    .

  • Comment number 75.

    #65. The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa

    your username is a copy of somebody elses, somebody that 90% of other people on here dislike, i find it quite frankly embarassing that you come on here pretending to be this person. So any of your comments are not taken seriously by me.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 76.

    71.At 10:58 3rd Apr 2012, PulpGrape wrote:

    As a Swindon fan myself I really hope your name does not suggest that you're a Man City fan from Swindon.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I'm sure the post-2008 Manchester City fans will quickly scurry back off to ''supporting'' Chelsea.

  • Comment number 77.

    Also, I hope United fans realise that this ''3 finals in 4 years'' mantra is starting to sound like the straw-clutching desperation of Liverpool fans.

    ===

    It's only to rubbish claims that the premiership is so far behind ther est of Europe when it was only a year ago United were in the final!

    As for the other stuff you're going on about with the averageness of the squad, I really couldn't care less about your opinion on them, I've been watching these players play and they're definitely more capable than you seem to believe.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    72.At 11:00 3rd Apr 2012, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:

    Very over acheiving mid table players. Soul patch your so cliche now its like the rash that never goes away, you just get used to it to the point that when you look at it you dont even see it anymore.

  • Comment number 80.

    @ KAPNAGG David De Gea point - ok he is much improved and his agility is frighteningly good, but the criticism he received earlier in the season was most definitely warranted.

    ===


    Rubbish it was. The guy was being described as the worst keeper in the league, a joke signing and one who would disappear. 20 year old, in his season in English football, and people like you think you were justified saying he was a flop who should be sold at first opportunity

    =====

    It seems to me as if you might have read more of the criticism that he received than I did; none of the quotes were familiar to me. He's at one of the biggest clubs in the world and he's your NUMBER ONE, he's going to be criticised or applauded, depending on his form - nature of his job I'm afraid. When he was performing badly, he deserved to have that highlighted, as does any professional footballer on obscene wages. The suggestion that he should be sold was obviously made by some uneducated oaf; he was ALWAYS going to come good.

  • Comment number 81.

    No one has yet mentioned the perfectly legitimate goal disallowed for Blackburn at 1-0 to Rovers it could have been a different out come of the match United getting a key decision at the key stage of the season.

    As for title don't just right City off yet.

  • Comment number 82.

    de Gea is beginning to look worth his fee finally. A poor start to the season, but he is looking more assured and commanding with every game now. Terrific turnaround. He may have cost Utd some games early on in the season but his recent performances have helped Utd claw there way back to top slot. Hats off to him.

  • Comment number 83.

    31.
    At 10:29 3rd Apr 2012, beneficiary wrote:

    Watching DDG last night reminds me of Heurelho Gomes of spurs. He is good when it comes to reflex saves but does not have the consistency of a good keeper.

    ___________________________________________________________________

    When did he last make a noticeable mistake?

  • Comment number 84.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 85.

    @ # 81 ... The perfectly legitimate goal for Blackburn... do enlighten me!

  • Comment number 86.

    81. At 11:04 3rd Apr 2012, vimbly Big in the Game wrote:

    the ball was clearly out of play i'm afraid.. and no bias towards MU here *in fact quite the opposite)

  • Comment number 87.

    that 90%+ of posters do enjoy my posts

    ==

    haha, you really live in a world of your own. I can almost hear the collective national sigh whenever your name first appears on a blog

  • Comment number 88.

    81. At 11:04 3rd Apr 2012, vimbly Big in the Game wrote:
    No one has yet mentioned the perfectly legitimate goal disallowed for Blackburn at 1-0 to Rovers it could have been a different out come of the match United getting a key decision at the key stage of the season.

    As for title don't just right City off yet.


    _________________________________________________

    You mean that the ball had gone out of play as TV replays perfectly showed, not to mention the shadow of the ball over the line giving that one away.

    : Slapsforehead, rolls eyes.

  • Comment number 89.

    I seem to remember another prediction from mystic Mancini - that Tevez was finished at City and would not play again for the club. And we all know how that one turned out - sacrificing principle for pragmatism.

    I have had a bet on at William Hill since January that United will win the Premiership by 7 points - the absolute joy of that will be that they will be crowned as Champions at the Wastelands on 30th April while the packed stands of City fans do another Poznan because they can't bear to look. Can't wait!!

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 91.

    Move over Silva. Valencia is the man.

  • Comment number 92.

    39.

    'going mental' because its one step closer to the title, nothing to do with level of opposition. Thought that would be obvious, even to someone who hasn't experienced their club winning PL before.

  • Comment number 93.

    @The_Soiled_Pants_Of_Pamplona

    Never mind the fact that the Utd players had heard the whistle and stopped playing, hence not closing down Pedersen's (admittedly excellent) shot.

  • Comment number 94.

    77.At 11:03 3rd Apr 2012, Kapnag wrote:

    It's only to rubbish claims that the premiership is so far behind ther est of Europe when it was only a year ago United were in the final!
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    No, it's a desperate, and less than wholehearted, attempt at self-affirmation from United fans, trying to fool themselves at the sorry, depreciating state of their squad.

    The fact that United reached 3 finals in 4 years (make that 5 now, shall we? :smirkssmugly:) doesn't say anything about the strength of the EPL.

    You'd have had an argument from 2005-2008, when 4 different English sides reached the final, but when it's only 1 team, it makes the EPL - shock, horror! - appear to be a 1-team league.

  • Comment number 95.

    Ref 81. You mean the disallowed goal that was clearly out of play which Kean admitted was the correct decision and he had no complaints about?!

    Clutching at straws.

    Meanwhile Utd power on. 31 points from 33 is absolutely dominating. The return of Scholes was an absolute masterstroke. All this done without the club captain Vidic making it all the more impressive. Evans, Valencia, Carrick..... all been superb.

    Citeh have visibly wilted under the pressure. They look a broken outfit. At least they are battling for the Champs League though and not fighting for seventh place...... lol.

  • Comment number 96.

    @The_soul_patch

    Whilst I find you entertaining and extremely eloquent speaking what I assume to be your second language? It is some of your more outlandish comments that weaken your previously well made points.

    Paul Scholes is and always has been a brilliant footballer. He is to United what Xavi is to Barcelona; that is based on stats and well, fact. And this is coming from his biggest critic; I hate him. He's a sour little man that has hidden behind "not being able to tackle" when to me it seems like he often hurts opponents purposefully. He's awful in interviews, not because he's shy but because he's thick, like most of our country's footballers. He rarely has a smile on his face and just adds to the perception that footballers have very little personality because they have little to no education.

    However, he's a truly brilliant footballer.

    UNLIKE the player your username is based upon. Overrated? And the rest.

  • Comment number 97.

    Brilliant win for us last night but lets not get carried away just yet. There will still be twists and turns in the weeks to come. 'City may face an in-form Arsenal but we have QPR at home and don't think for a second it will be an easy match. QPR are fighting for survival and 'Sparky' will make sure his team are pumped up.

    I think United will have to improve their squad for next season as the double European failure has not been good enough. Remember what Fergie said last May. We were supposed to match Barca in terms of quality. Going out in the group stages and faring worse in the Europa League shows we haven't got close at all. I remember the 07-08 season, we were ripping the teams to death. That was when we had the fear factor. Then in 08-09, even tho we won the World Club, League, League Cup and got to final of CL, we didn't play as well as we did in the previous season. I might be wrong but didn't we score 67 goals in 08-09 compared to 83 in 07-08? After both Ronaldo and Tevez left, who were their replacements? A free transfer in Owen (Why???), Obertan (turned out to be a flop) and Valencia (who is probably the best winger in the Premier League by far). A near miss in 09-10 but Chelsea deserved it anyway. And last season, we had a poor away record yet we still won #19. We were well and truly thumped by Barca in the CL final. Even this season, we're still playing average. I'll be a very proud red devil if we win #20 but this summer, we need some changes!

    Central Midfield is in dire need! Giggs and Scholes cannot go on forever. Carrick and Park are also getting old. Fletcher is ill and Anderson isn't up to United's standard. So who do we have left? Cleverley who is gifted but keeps getting hurt all the time. Pogba will be a world beater one day but will he stay? Tunnicliffe is going to be a beast of a player 1 day but he needs experience.
    Unless Fergie is really stubborn, we MUST buy at least 2 central midfielders who can both play in central midfield. We don't need a playmaker as Rooney can play in the hole. We may need a new striker since Berbatov and possibly Owen are off.
    I know I will be dreaming here but we should go all out and buy back Ronaldo. Im sure that the rumours of him going to Chelsea or 'City will hurt any United fan. If we can bring him back, coupled with a world class central midfield, imagine the damage we would cause?
    The 98-99 and 07-08 seasons are still United's only glory years. We need to move forward.... FAST!

  • Comment number 98.

    90.At 11:09 3rd Apr 2012, Thrashball wrote:
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Even so I never said that. Still, don't let facts get in the way of your argument. :shakeshead:

    It wasn't anything to do with any ''touchy'' subject, anyway. But I can't divulge too much more, as it's a matter for me and my legal team.

  • Comment number 99.

    On the subject of Balotelli, I do find it well over the top the way Hansen has targeted him this season, in the manner that he has. Especially when he is so tame and reluctant to go all guns-blazing on Carroll. Rather distasteful the regularity and intensity of Hansen's so-called criticism of Balotelli, even if Balotelli has been a utter ninny at times.

  • Comment number 100.

    @83

    He spilled Pedersens fairly tame shot through the wall last night, but Rio got him out of jail with the clearance.

    Although this was an important three points I don't think the title race is anywhere near over. One draw and it all comes down to the game at the Etihad again!

 

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