Dubai: Manchester City’s title hopes may have been dealt a severe blow after their 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Sunday left them nine points adrift of table-toppers United with 13 games remaining, but as United know all too well — having reversed Newcastle United’s 12-point advantage to win the English Premier League back in 1996 — the title chase is far from over.
Last year we saw City come back from eight points behind with six matches remaining, so it would be foolish to write off another such comeback with 13 games to go this season.
If anything, the draws against Liverpool and QPR would have served as a wake-up call for City and this may have come at a stage in the season where they can best act upon it.
United are staring down the barrel of a two-leg Champions League last-16 clash with Real Madrid on February 13 and March 5, while they also play Reading in the FA Cup fifth round on February 18.
Scattered either side of these fixtures, United face Everton, QPR, Norwich, West Ham, Reading and Sunderland in the league, before the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford on April 6.
City, on the other hand, only have a fifth round FA Cup clash with Leeds United to distract them from their league commitments after finishing bottom in their Champions League group, thus sidestepping the consolation prize of Europa League participation.
Their run into the derby — a match now widely considered to be crucial to the season — seems slightly harder on paper. City coach Roberto Mancini says he only wants to be two or three points behind United heading into their grudge match, but in order to achieve that they will have to overcome the likes of Southampton, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Wigan Athletic, Everton and Newcastle United.
Having achieved what they did last year, anything is possible, but with talisman Vincent Kompany out for three weeks with a calf strain and no reinforcements in the January transfer window to replace AC Milan-bound Mario Balotelli and only striker John Guidetti promoted from the reserves, it won’t be easy.
Brewing over that Liverpool draw however, and the public’s write-off reaction to it, may just be the catalyst City need to prove their critics wrong yet again.