The champagne was flowing, the costumes were bright and Manchester City’s buoyant mood has continued on after their fancy dress party organised by the man himself, Mario Balotelli.
While the men in blue earn all the plaudits, outscoring the rest of the Premier League and not dropping a single point at home this term, the red side of Manchester appears a more forlorn place.
Injuries are mounting. Two of their vanguard, Nemanja Vidic and Darren Fletcher, will not be seen again this term, while the early season promise of an Anderson and Tom Cleverly midfield pairing has also been sidelined.
City’s spine—Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero—continues to pick itself
Sir Alex Ferguson, who has always maintained faith in his wider squad, usually due to a season comprising of a battle on four fronts, now has to rely on that width in the absence of more familiar names that swarmed over their neighbours in the second half of the Community Shield.
Yet, while Roberto Mancini’s men continue to dazzle and United’s squad clings on to their coat tails, it is worth remembering the gap is still only two points.
For all the margins there may be in terms of goal difference, confidence and strength on paper, two points is two points and Ferguson will not mind staying tucked in behind City until this season’s final stretch.
Indeed, it has always been the case that as United run the bend in the final curve of what is the Premier League marathon, they kick on, so often coming up the inside of their opponents and beat them to the tape.
The title is City’s to lose—a squad meltdown, injuries to that spine and even nerves come the last eight games—are all factors that could derail this squad of unquestionable pedigree.
And it is this that Ferguson will be mulling over.
He cannot compete in the transfer market in the financial sense, nor perhaps this term in the standard of football, but there are other ways. Ferguson knows that mentally, a title race is like going through a valley, the first half is easier heading downhill.
However, United after Christmas still have to make trips to White Hart Lane, Stamford Bridge, the Emirates and finally of course the Eastlands.
It is the last of these matches that Ferguson will plot to make his final charge, tucked in behind his title leading hosts and snatching three points in his noisy neighbours back garden.
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