Published on February 11, 2013 | by Craig Matthews

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Manchester United on brink of title No. 20

Manchester United celebrating their last league title in 2011. [Flickr: Paolo Camera]

With a 2-0 victory at home to Everton at the weekend, Manchester United cemented their place at the top of the table, gaining a staggering 12-point lead over champions Manchester City.

All looks good then or Sir Alex Ferguson’s side as he takes his Red Devils to Madrid for Wednesday’s colossal tie at the Bernabeu, which will surely shape up to be a classic.

City had the momentum at the start of the weekend by being able to claw the gap down to six points before United had the chance to play on Sunday.

However, this wasn’t to be, as a lackluster performance by Roberto Mancini’s side led to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of struggling Southampton.

City looked outfought and at times outclassed by Saints, with City’s attack in particular struggling once more.

With the Blue half of Manchester failing to produce the goods, United were able to deliver what could well be the knockout blow in the race for the title.

With only twelve games remaining the gap looks too big for City to claw back with United looking highly unlikely to lose four matches and allow their rivals back into the title race.

What’s more, given City’s form this campaign, they simply don’t look like putting a near-perfect last quarter of the season together given what’s gone before.

Defensive improvement

United, meanwhile, have really shored up at the back since the turn of the year, conceding just three goals in six Premier League games, complimenting their already devastating attack.

A solid defensive effort from both Phil Jones, who shackled Marouane Fellaini for much of the match, and veteran Nemanja Vidic, was the backbone for a good team performance against Everton.

Ryan Giggs ran the midfield, controlling and dictating the passing with an eager Tom Cleverley, whose tidy play in possession kept things ticking over nicely.

Much has been said about the partnership of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, but the success of this team is not just down to these two individuals. Simply put they are a well-oiled machine.

A unit that all works great together. Every member has a job and they play that role down to a tee. They know the role that they have to play and it is drilled into them from the ever-present Ferguson.

Champions-elect

The majority of bookmakers have suspended betting on who is going to win the title with some companies even already paying out on the United victory. Ferguson will remind his players not to become complacent though, having lost a 12-point lead in the 1997/98 season to Arsenal with only few games remaining.

The title race is by all means not over, however, City have a monumental mountain to climb if they are to overturn the 19 time champions. Coming back from a deficit at the end of last season, City forced United into mistakes, winning their last six games.

They’d almost certainly need to double that effort this season, with a 12-game streak in order to exert some pressure on United, although the Red will surely have learnt their lesson from last term.

 

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