After years, no, decades of watching in-town rival Manchester United receive the benefit of seemingly every call—and all that extra "Fergie Time"—Manchester City have recently become the darlings of the Premier League's whistle and flag men.
City's 1-5 result at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur was indelibly marked by help from both referee Andre Marriner and his colleagues.
Michael Dawson saw a potential first-half equalizer for Spurs disallowed for offside. NBC Sports Network replays confirmed that the play was offside by millimeters, but that sort of play often stands for the home side.
Then, early in the second half, City still held a slim 0-1 lead when Edin Dzeko was hacked down by Spurs left-back Danny Rose. Marriner, who seemed ready to allow play to continue without even a card, showed red after a chat with one of his assistants.
Slow-motion replays of Rose's challenge certainly raised the possibility that Rose touched the ball before he wildly erased Dzeko in the box.
Yaya Toure converted the ensuing penalty, and City were thus bestowed with the windfall of a two-goal lead and a man advantage with almost a full half to play.
That City ended up scoring five could hardly be considered shocking in view of the lengthy power play Rose's absence gave them.
If this benevolence from Marriner and his colleague was something new to City, it could be easily disregarded. But City's season of late has been aided by officiating assistance like an eight-figure catamaran chased by a following wind.
Earlier this month, City were getting all they could handle from Newcastle United at St James' Park when Chieck Tiote's 34th minute equalizer was wrongly waved off by referee Mike Jones. There is quite literally no telling how that match might have turned out if Newcastle had ever drawn level; City won 0-2.
And on Boxing Day, City received a late Christmas gift of two additional points when Raheem Sterling was incorrectly deemed offside in the 19th minute after being sent through on City keeper Joe Hart. City won that match 2-1; Sterling's goal might well have cost City the win.
Please do not misunderstand. This is not to say that City are not a great side. They are.
Eight consecutive Premier League wins and staying unbeaten for two and a half months in all competitions makes City a true title contender and a club, amazingly, still seemingly on the rise even with all of their recent success.
What it does say here is that those United sides that Sir Alex Ferguson led were great sides too—and they very often got the benefit of every officiating doubt.
These days, though, United are a turgid, mid-table outfit that no longer turns heads as they did in the past. City are the prettiest girl at the dance now, and they are being treated that way by the men who run the games.
If City continue to play violently attacking football and to get so many calls, woe be unto the rest of the Premier League.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!