So, the title race is back on then? Well, not really as Manchester City’s hugely deserving 2-1 win at arch-rivals Manchester United on Monday night has only delayed the home side’s inevitable Premier League title, but it must have felt sweet nonetheless for Robert Mancini’s side.
Of course, it was virtually this time last season that the visitors were celebrating a more crucial victory—also by just the one goal—over their city rivals. It was a win that would ultimately propel them to their first top-flight title in 34 years.
And one player who was absolutely central to that last-gasp title win was City’s twinkle-toed midfield player David Silva. Against United, the 27-year-old was once again back to his magical, untouchable best as he turned in a man-of-the-match display that proved pivotal in his side’s ultra-efficient performance.
When the Spain international is in this kind of mood, he really is both a joy to watch for the neutral, while equally he must be a real thorn in the side for an opposition to have to deal with. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men really struggled at times at Old Trafford to prevent the impish playmaker from dictating the control of the game.
On numerous occasions in a first half that City bossed from the early stages onwards with their slick, neat, one-touch football, Silva would pick up possession in and around the United penalty area and play clever one-twos with teammates.
Playing off lone front man Carlos Tevez in the "hole," and virtually as a now-typical Spanish "false" No 9, the 27-year-old was a constant menace to the Red Devils’ unfamiliar-looking centre-back partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones in the first period. He could even have scored just his fifth league goal of what has been—by the standards Silva set last season—a disappointing campaign.
And in many ways, Silva’s eye-catching attacking display against United will have only served to once again remind City head coach Mancini, and everyone else associated with the club, just what might have been this campaign.
The little Spaniard contributed a Premier League-high 17 assists towards City’s title triumph last season, as well as scoring six other crucial goals along the way, including City’s fifth in their never-to-be-forgotten 6-1 mauling of United at Old Trafford in October 2011.
However, despite shining once again in the reverse fixture on Monday evening, the gifted midfield schemer has only shown glimpses of that type of form throughout what will ultimately prove to be a failed title defence by Mancini’s men, regardless of the fact that on the night the Blues were far superior to the Red Devils.
Form that, in September 2011, even led his manager to liken the player to compatriots Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, as well as labelling him as “one of the best players in the world.”
But Silva was dogged once again by injury after sustaining a hamstring problem while on international duty with Spain last October, which resulted in him being sidelined for almost a month of the campaign. The midfield player did not even score his first league goal of the season until City’s 5-0 home rout over Aston Villa a month later.
Who was City's key player against United?
Meanwhile, he is also down on the number of goals that he has created for teammates (nine) compared to last time around. Even if he features in the remaining seven Premier League games of the campaign, he will still have played fewer matches than last season.
However, Silva’s dip in form is only one of a myriad of different factors that have resulted in City currently being six points worse off than they were at the same stage last season, as well as their goal difference being inferior by 20 goals.
And, along with the club’s failure to build on their title win via their lacklustre summer transfer policy, the collective loss of form of all of their star performers from last season and the blistering pace set by United in this campaign, there will be a lot to digest by City supremo’s Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano come May time.
One employee they will not need reviewing though will be a certain Spaniard, who after Monday night’s return to form, the City hierarchy will be relieved is tied down to a long-term contract as they plot which personnel they will need next season to get their hands back on the Premier League title.