Why Manchester United could lose the title race to Manchester City

Defeat to Manchester City saw gap at top of the table close to 12 points

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The Independent Football

Speaking ahead of last night's Manchester derby, Wayne Rooney offered a warning: “One bad game and everything could fall.”

The defeat at Old Trafford meant that reigning champions Manchester City moved to within 12 points of United and ensured securing the title will not be as easy as it could have been for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

But is it possible that United could lose their grip on the title all together and witness City lift the trophy for the second season running? We take a look at the reasons why a turn-around is still possible, and imagine how it might happen...


Reasons why United could let the title slip away

A win last night would have left United needing just four points from their remaining seven games. However, due to their defeat, they now need 10 points if City win all their remaining games.

Among those still to play in the run in are Arsenal and Chelsea - two teams vying for a top four finish and currently enjoying strong runs of form.

Stoke City and Aston Villa are also amongst those still to play. With both fighting for their lives in a relegation dog fight these fixtures could be far from straightforward.

United have let the title slip through their fingers before - including last season. When City lost to Arsenal at the beginning of April, United held an eight point advantage. Yet Ferguson's side slipped to a shock defeat at Wigan and then drew 4-4 with Everton after being 4-2 up with five minutes to play. City would win the title on goal difference thanks to Sergio Aguero's injury time winner over QPR on the last day of the season.

United also collapsed at the end of the 1997/98 season. At the beginning of March they were 11 points clear of Arsenal but a 10 game winning streak, including one over United themselves, saw Arsene Wenger's side take the title by one point.

Roberto Mancini has been busy conceding the title - even after last night's victory claiming: "This year we did some mistakes but we can do nothing now. The season is gone." Yet the Italian said similar things at this stage last year, even suggesting United were favourites to win the title after City beat them 1-0 to go top of the league with two games to play.


How the title could slip through United's fingers...

APRIL 14 - Stoke v Man Utd. United have a good record at the Britannia but were held to a draw in the corresponding fixture last year. Against opposition like this, the Stoke fans will finally get behind their team and help them earn a share of the spoils. UNITED 78 PTS. CITY 65.

APRIL 17 - Man City v Wigan, West Ham v Man Utd. Against opponents not as equipped to back up from an FA Cup semi-final as they are, City cruise home. United meanwhile find it difficult to break the Hammers down and are held again, just as they were in the FA Cup earlier this season. UNITED 79 PTS. CITY 68.

APRIL 21/22 - Tottenham v Man City, Man Utd v Aston Villa. Sensing blood, City go for the jugular against a Tottenham side whose form has deserted them. Twenty-four hours after a Blues triumph, United match them at Old Trafford. UNITED 82 PTS. CITY 71.

APRIL 27/28 - Man City v West Ham, Arsenal v Man Utd. City really have the bit between their teeth now and are far too good for the Hammers, who have not been that impressive on the road. With Champions League qualification Arsenal exploit United's growing nerves and win at the Emirates. UNITED 82 PTS. CITY 74.

MAY 4 - Man Utd v Chelsea, Swansea v Man City. Disaster strikes for Ferguson as he is outwitted by old adversary Rafael Benitez at Old Trafford. With City coasting past a Swansea side whose minds have drifted towards holidays, suddenly the battle is on. UNITED 82 PTS. CITY 77.

MAY 8 (TBC) - Man City v West Brom. A game still to be rearranged from FA Cup semi-final weekend goes the way of the favourites. UNITED 82 PTS. CITY 80.

MAY 12 - Man Utd v Swansea, Reading v Man City. The nerves are taking hold now. Both clubs record victories to set up another super Sunday title epic. UNITED 85 POINTS. CITY 83.

MAY 19 - Man City v Norwich, West Brom v Man Utd. City avoid the near catastrophe of last season to cruise past Norwich, racking up a tally that tilts the goal difference in their favour. As news filters through, United are paralysed by fear, fail to get the win they need and lose out by an even more slender margin than last season. UNITED 86 POINTS. CITY 86. (CITY WIN TITLE ON GOAL DIFFERENCE).


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