By Josh Powell | Premier League 2012/13
The Premier League title race has been finished for about a month now after Paddy Power paid out on Manchester United, but it is well and truly over after this weekend. Sky Sports would have you believe that there is every chance Manchester City can still claw back the 15 point deficit but even the most optimistic fan would struggle to argue their case.
Manchester United’s 1-0 win at home to Reading stretched their lead at the top of the table to 15 points after Man City crumbled to a 2-0 loss away at Everton. Leon Osman’s long-range effort was the final nail in the coffin for City’s title challenge and probably dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on Roberto Mancini’s P45.
It means it is now a question of ‘when’ Manchester United will be crowned champions rather than ‘will’. All the signs are pointing to April 17 and United’s trip to face West Ham at Upton Park. Here are the next four fixtures for both Manchester sides.
March 30 – Sunderland (A)
April 8 – Manchester City (H)
April 14 – Stoke (A)
April 17 – West Ham (A)
March 30 – Newcastle (H)
April 8 – Manchester United (A)
April 17 – Wigan (H)
April 21 – Tottenham (A)
Both teams would be expected to win their final league game of March. Manchester City have lost just one game at the Etihad Stadium all season and despite Newcastle’s French resurgence and they’ve beaten the Magpies in nine of the last 10 meetings. United haven’t lost to Sunderland in the league since 1997 so barring Steven Fletcher becoming Lionel Messi overnight, the points gap should still be 15.
Then comes the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. The memory of City’s 6-1 win there last season still haunts Sir Alex Ferguson so don’t expect a repeat of that. For arguments sake I’ve put this one down as a draw. City will be desperate to win and save some pride but their lacklustre performance away to Everton wouldn’t give fans too much faith heading to Old Trafford. Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton have all lost at the Theatre of Dreams where United have dropped just three points in the league.
United are due to play Stoke away on April 14 but that depends on their FA Cup replay with Chelsea. The Britannia is referred to as a tough ground to play in but United have never lost their in the Premier League, winning three and drawing one. Another win here would take them 18 points clear.
Going in to the games on April 17, Manchester City would be 18 points behind with 18 still to play for. United have won the last eight against West Ham ahead of their trip to Upton Park whereas City have to go down to White Hart Lane. At the time of writing Spurs haven’t lost there in more than four months and Andre Villas-Boas’ team are hotter than a jacuzzi party round at Una Healy’s gaff.
That should be the Premier League officially done with a month to spare. If you’re a United fan stick the champagne on ice and book Thursday April 18 off work. There will be a title party to attend.