Tuesday, December 06, 2011

City v United in the FA Cup: It's the worst draw possible for Ferguson...

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Manchester United haven't been the same team since the derby. The early season swagger, attacking play and flair that saw the champions serge to the summit of the Premier League seems like a distant memory. City currently lead United by five points, that and a massive goal difference. In terms of style and approach, City are playing a calculated brand of football, one that is based on not conceding and punishing any mistakes made by their opponents. Arsene Wenger recently hinted that City could have the League title wrapped up by Christmas - while that is highly unlikely, we know what the Arsenal manager meant.

In short, and while it is hard to acknowledge this, Mancini is doing a stunning job for his club, so much so that the Italian is making it all look a bit too easy. City are on target to smash the record for most goals scored in a Premier League season. Chelsea are the current holders of that record with 103 goals in 2009-2010. Ironically, City currently hold the record for the lowest number of home goals in 2006-2007, but, oh, how times have changed. At the current rate, City will score over 130 goals - if that happens they won't broken the record, they will have blown it to smithereens.

Mancini weighed up the Premier League for a couple of seasons and after initially being criticised for being too defensive, he now looks to have found the perfect system; one look at the goals for column backs up that theory. City are very difficult to score against and they are ruthlessly efficient at the other end - it is proving to be a lethal combination, one that is not without style, with David Silva pulling the strings.

United fans cannot complain too much, given the club's success under Ferguson, but as we head towards the turn of the year, and with another derby on the horizon in the 3rd round of FA Cup, we are heading into the unknown. Anything could happen. City could well go on to dominate English football for the next decade - in the same way that United have dominated on the domestic front. With the backing of an oil-rich nation, City can continue to buy who they choose. It is nothing short of a near miracle turnaround for a club that not so long ago was regarded as a yo-yo-club.

With Ferguson pushing 70, he will not be around to stop City for much longer.
The United manager suffered the most embarrassing defeat of his career when the two teams last met in October and the worry is, City are playing so well, we cannot rule out a similar scoreline in January.

United are not playing well - everyone knows it - and Ferguson's job is being made more difficult with a succession of injuries to key players. Javier Hernandez became the latest injury victim at Villa Park on Saturday when he inexplicably fell over for no apparent reason and damaged ankle ligaments. It was a bizarre injury, one that will have left Ferguson cursing his luck. United won at Villa Park and Phil Jones was the goal hero. The overall performance was marginally better than we've seen of late, but United are still not quite collectively at it and you worry about the battles ahead.

United travel to Basel on Wednesday night needing just a draw to qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League. For their part, Basel need to win to avoid being relegated to the Europa League. If United lose, they will end up in the Europa League and that in itself will without any shadow of doubt have implications for the champions. Europa League games are played on Thursdays and that means you lose a day's rest ahead of domestic games and it's one reason why Premier League club's have struggled in this competition. City could also easily end up in the Europa League, if Napoli win away at Villarreal.

It's going to be an emotional roller-coaster...

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