Manchester United moved three points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League by beating Fulham 1-0 at Old Trafford on Monday night. Wayne Rooney scored in the 42nd minute in a kind of performance we have become accustomed to see from United. Not at their best and still winning 1-0 is a hallmark for champions is how some cliche goes. And it is used most often for United.
Fulham did have a penalty claim that the referee did not give in the late stages of the match. No one can blame the referee, as it is just not quite the norm to give penalties at Old Trafford against Manchester United—especially when the difference that the decision could have made would have been telling in the race for the title. Moving clear one point rather than moving three points clear.
To add to the pressure, United's title race is against City this season, and they do not want to be second best to their derby rivals. It simply would be a disaster.
As the season moves into its final stages, United are showing what experience actually counts for. Many players at United have done this before. City are inexperienced in that department, and so it is showing.
The game at the Etihad Stadium on April 30th is a Manchester derby with a difference. There simply haven't been derbies with so much stake on them before. If things stay the way they are, City will have to win it, and United will try to hit City on the counter attack after sitting back. There are not a lot of games after the derby, and each team will want to keep within touching distance of one another until that game is played.
Can Manchester City compensate for the experience that United players have and overturn this deficit? I do not think so. Yes, Mancini's men did beat Tottenham and Chelsea in close encounters, but losing points in games that they should have won will hurt come end of the season. United have only dropped 17 points to this point, and that is why City needed to beat everyone, like your Swanseas and Sunderlands.
That stat does show you that the league quality has dwindled. This season has been different to previous seasons when any team could beat any other team, no matter the gap in the table. This season, the top teams are almost invincible.
If City can indeed turn it around and also give us an electric derby, no one will complain. The question is, do they have enough talent and passion to compensate for the lack of experience? And this question has to be answered comparing these attributes with the ones they find themselves trailing to: Manchester United.