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Russell Berrisford

Russell Berrisford

Russell’s support of Derby County eventually led him to leave the country. He has lived in Canada since 2007 and currently writes about soccer for The Vancouver Sun.


A Most Unusual Title Race

Written by on March 23, 2012 | 4 Comments »
Posted in English Premier League, General

It comes as no surprise that the battle for the English Premier League title has come down to a battle between the two Manchester clubs, after all United are always in the hunt and City have spent many millions in their bid to catch up with their neighbours.

Yet what is surprising  is that for both teams that title is the only piece of silverware that they can win for the remainder of the season.

Both clubs being eliminated from the group stages of the Champions League seemed unlikely when the competition began yet that is exactly what happened, and following that exit there was, for many, the blithe assumption that they would march together towards unhindered Europa Cup “glory”.

That glory though proved to be as elusive as Carlos Tevez when a late substitute is needed as both teams were completely outplayed in just their second tie of the competition.

Align that European failure with exits from the two domestic cup competitions and you are left with a title run in that we haven’t seen for some time.

Manchester United and their fans have grown accustomed to entering the final stages of the season battling away on at least two fronts, and in recent years at least one of their challengers have been in the same position; but not this time around.

This time around both clubs face a run in in which only injuries prevent their respective managers from picking the best eleven week and week out and that simple fact may have decisively changed the whole dynamic of the race.

For although much has been made of the advantage that United have in an easier fixture list for the remaining games it could turn out to be their failure to do anything of worth in any other competition that is their greatest asset.

If there is one area in which they are weaker than City this season (and most likely for the foreseeable future) it is in the area of squad depth, as City’s millions have allowed them to amass a group of players in which each one is not only capable of starting a Premier League game but are, almost to a man, proven medal winners or internationals.

Compare that to the alternatives on offer for Sir Alex Ferguson where the likes of the da Silva twins, Berbatov and Michael Owen are less than likely to earn a start for the rest of the season and, somewhat improbably, Paul Scholes had to be brought out of retirement to provide some quality in midfield.

If he were forced to juggle his squad because of the high number of upcoming games than there is no doubt that the United manager would be facing some unwelcome decisions, but as it stands he should be able to make do with fourteen or fifteen players that he trusts absolutely, and that maximization of his limited resources may be the factor that brings the title back to Old Trafford.

Nobody at United wanted to fail in all those cup competitions, but that failure may turn out to be the key to their Premier League success.

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4 responses to “A Most Unusual Title Race”

  1. good points. Winning multiple trophies is hard in any top league. But, with the addition of ManC the strength of the top is such that any slip up and you can find yourself like Liverpool and Tottenham, derailed. this has led to the evacuation of many clubs I think. Arsenal is happy to be out of the UEFA CL in my view.

    I think all over UEFA though, you are seeing tighter fights up top.
    Dortmund and Bayern in Germany, Juve and Milan in Italy, Real have slowed down a bit and made Barca’s regaining fight possible.
    In France, PSG and Montpellier, with no Olympiques in the top 4. In France, and England, and Italy it all started with Money teams. Juve revitalized. ManC and PSG remade. Malaga may even get in third.
    We may be seeing the beginning of a level of difficulty where it is just too hard to win doubles and triples in a season.
    Real can’t win the Copa Del rey, Milan can’t win the Coppa Italia, Bayern arent top, MArseille aren’t top. etc.

  2. Russell Berrisford says:

    Richard- yes Arsenal going out of the CL has increased their chances of getting back in next year-it’s almost as though the aim of the CL for a number of clubs is to no longer win it but to just qualify for it year in and year out.

    Interesting too that Ferguson has stepped up the rhetoric with Man City- that shows that a) he is worried about them and b) he is thouroughly enjoying himself!

  3. Ed Gomes says:

    Russ, you said it right; for many teams, to the delight of the board room and anguish of he fans, earning a CL spot and getting past the grip stages is all this needed. It guarantees the club a certain amount of money ad prestige, in order to obtain further reinforcements.

    In regards to Arsenal, in my opinion, there’s a lot of talk in regards to Wengers worth. To me that’s silly, since he’s proven to be invaluable for Arsenal. He has filled the coffers and people’s pockets, and has fielded a title competing squad. But the biggest issue with me is that he’s thought of as an all time great, but the silverware count just doesn’t warrant that. For the fans it’s about winning titles, and for some time now, for Arsenal it’s been about earning a CL spot.
    That’s the reason Cesc and Nasri are no longer there, and the likes of RvP could very well be on the way out. It’s become so dire that Podolski is being trumpeted as if he’s a world class talent. Last time I checked Arshavin was just that, until he got lost in the shuffle.
    Sorry for the Arsenal rant

    As for City, the main goal this season has always been about winning the league title. They may have superstars that are playing well together, as proven throughout history, they still have to go through that maturing/learning/winning process.

    As a Man United supporter, I agree that Scholes remakes of desperation. Since back he’s made plenty of bad passes that could have really hurt Man United. I get the experience he brings, but I’m sorry, talent is needed as well. Scholes could have been the greatest midfielder ever, but he isn’t now. Having to depend on him, is desperation and keeping fingers crossed.
    History shows that SAF will pull it out and be lauded, but that doesn’t discount he fact that the squad is very thin. The question in have is how is the budget affected with such an early exit from the CL.

    Either case, the title race, and the CL race will be very exciting in the EPL.

    On a side note, the Portuguese title race is also hot this season. Braga has somehow remained up top with Benfica and Porto.

  4. Erik says:

    Along those same lines I think Stoke also benefited from not being in the EL past 1 round of the KO Stage because I don’t think they had the roster depth to be successful in both the EL and EPL. And while I know Swansea would be ecstatic to somehow qualify for the EL if they did the expectations most had for them this season (present company included) will come true next season because their EPL season will suffer.

    As for the “Battle of Manchester” if 1 was still playing in Europe it would be a massive advantage to the other side. Looking at the remaining sked for both Manchester sides I make United a rather healthy sized fave over City. City MUST get all 3 points on April 30 or else the EPL race is OVER! Anything less than 3 (even 1) and we can make it 20 for United.

    United has 5 home games left and I can see them getting 13 points there. Toss in road games @ B’burn, Wigan, City and Sunday and I can see 7 points (at worst) meaning 20 points or 90 for the season

    City has 4 home games left and I don’t think they finish the season 19-0 so I’ll give them 10 points but think 8 is more like it at best. Road games @ Stoke, Arsenal, Norwich, Wolves and Newcastle and I just don’t see them getting enough to catch/pass United for the Title.

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