The amount of time Messrs Hansen, Shearer et al bang on about “course and distance” in regards to this years title race, one would be inclined to believe that the participants were actually horses. But since Ruud van Nistelrooy left Old Trafford, that hasn’t been the case at all. Perhaps it’s Lord Ferg’s fondness for the sport of kings that keeps the pundits riffing on their little bon mot; Giggs and Scholes, for all their experience in title winning sides, are no longer such a central part of the team that their experience will prove vital in every game. The “course and distance” analogy simply doesn’t apply since there are too many inexperienced “horses” in the squad; in this case it only applies to the “jockey” (manager) and that means it doesn’t apply at all.
Enough labouring over an already too-laboured analogy; Man Utd really only have one more tough game to go in their run in, and with City’s poor away form costing them dearly, the meeting between the two may not prove to be such a pivotal match after all. Utd will almost certainly come looking for the draw, whilst looking to pinch a goal on the counter; barring a spectacular loss of Utd form, City will have to win to stand a chance at becoming champions. Pools panel result: No score draw (inevitably).
The wildcard in all of this is the one-man Argentinian rebel whirlwind, Carlos Tevez. With most people already bored to tears by the whole sorry shenanigans, I shan’t go into too much detail about his departure and recent return. However I’d like to find a job where I can refuse to come in for 5 months, stay at home on full pay and then return like the prodigal son when I felt a bit better – nice work if you can get it.
What Tevez does offer is the polar opposite of Madcap Mario and his nonchalant languidity. While Balotelli strolls around, missing chance after chance and taking time out to castigate unworthy team mates who have the temerity to not get everything 100% right 100% of the time, Tevez will bring a fire and a zest to proceedings that could just give City a vital lift as the season enters the final furlong. (!)
The football fates love nothing more than the old boy returning to score against his former club – without a modicum of research, I’d say it happens more often than not when player comes up against a former employer. It’s how Leo Fortune-West was able to keep such a good goalscoring record well into his 40’s; he’d already played for every club there was to play for. What odds Tevez to score the winner at Eastlands on the 30th of April? Pretty short I’d say. (Betting not yet available, sorry). The situation with Denis Law in 1973-74 was different of course, but I’d say there are enough similarities between the two to argue that something of a historical precedent is already set.
Today, City face Sunderland, against whom they have won their last 7 consecutive home league games. Martin O’Neill’s rejuvenated Sunderland side will have to bounce back from their midweek FA cup defeat at Everton, as well as overcoming recent historical precedent. A win for City will take them top, at least until Monday night when United travel to Ewood Park. Rovers’ victory at Old Trafford on New Years eve may have just saved Steve Kean’s job, and their recent home record against United isn’t too shoddy; they last beat them at home in 2005/06, a David Bentley hat-trick ensuring they did the double over them that season. A similar result on Monday night will make things very interesting indeed.