Is it really all over? The fat lass is doing her vocal warm-ups, but the band are yet to strike up. And that’s not our random promotion of an Adele gig. The newspapers and QPR’s away record would have you thinking they can start engraving a new name on the Premier League trophy, but the melodramatic Sky Sports ad tell us it may not be that straightforward. It’s never that simple. Is it?
No doubt there’s an open-top bus being dressed in Sky Blue somewhere in Manchester, but United can still win the title. Yes, City successfully marched over the bigger banana skin of their final two games by winning at Newcastle, but there’s one hurdle yet to negotiate. Mark Hughes brings his team and the vague feeling he was shafted by City a few years back to Eastlands. As every cliché about a team involved in the relegation battle has ever told us, QPR are battling for points and won’t be pushovers. It’s also a game of two halves and they’ll also give more 110 per cent.
But the hopes of an upset look minimal around Old Trafford. Even Fergie’s mind games feel a little underwhelming. Earlier in the week he said City will need to do a ‘Devon Loch’ for United to win the title – a reference so half-arsed, the likes of Aguero, Silva and Balotelli won’t even bother Wikipedia-ing it to figure out what the hell he’s talking about. “We can only do our best and try to win the match and hope something stupid happens with City,” Sir Alex admitted with the air of resignation you’d expect from someone who has seen United defend in recent weeks.
Patrice Evra, captain and chief cheerleader, struck a more optimistic tone. So optimistic in fact that he’s likely to be offered the job of chief economist at the European Central Bank in future. “Maybe people will say I’m crazy, but I still believe,” he said, with a healthy dollop of Fox Mulder. Key to forcing a City meltdown will be an early goal against Sunderland. After that the plan pretty much involves the City players turning to stone and crumbling to dust.”If we score first, maybe the City fans in the stadium will start to be nervous,” he explained, “When you are nervous, you rush things and you don’t do the things you want to do.”
The stats don’t paint a very encouraging picture for the red half of
greater London Manchester. Manchester City have claimed 52 out of a possible 54 points at the Arabian Airline Arena this season. To patronisingly spell that out to make it sound as dramatic as possible, that means they’ve dropped just two points at home in their entire Premier League campaign.
It all seems to hinge on the effects of City nerves because QPR have the worst away record in the Premier League. They’ve collected the fewest points on their travels and, in a league that includes Wolves, that’s a pretty astounding achievement. But as the entire career of Sergio Garcia has shown us, chokes do happen in sport and there is still the potential for the Citizens to shoot themselves in the foot in the most stunning fashion.
Rs boss, Mark Hughes cited an example from his own experience when he and his United team-mates handed Leeds the title way back in 1992. More out of the contractual obligation he has to turn up to these press conferences and not sit in silence than actual belief you’d have to think. “We caved in and there will be moments of doubt for them,” Hughes said, kind of comparing title run-in lemons, with title run-in apples. “They’ve got good players – players who’ve won things – but they haven’t won it as a group and that’s the difference,” he added his own pretty weak attempt at mind games.
Roberto Mancini, so often accused of being excessively cautious, took out his trumpet and gave it a good loud blow in the build-up to the big day. “We played the best football in the Premier League,” said Mancini. “Maybe after Sunday we still won’t have the title but we will have played the best football,” he opined, preparing the way for some Barcelona-style claiming the moral high ground even if you don’t actually win a trophy.
After looking like they’d thrown it away about a month ago, City have one hand and a few fingers on the Premier League. One last twist in the tale looks unlikely, but stranger things have happened with Fergie.