A month ago Monday’s derby at The Etihad Stadium appeared to be one that would see Manchester United crowned as Premier League Champions – either walking on to the pitch as the 2011/12 winners or celebrating at the final whistle – but with defeat at Wigan and then dropping points at home to Everton suddenly City have a second chance.
Following defeat at Arsenal when the wheels looked as though they were falling off City’s season no-one gave them much of a hope but now, just three points (and with a superior goal difference) behind they have an opportunity to return to top spot with just two games remaining. Victory for United though however would see them need just one point to seal what would be a twentieth title. No wonder Sir Alex Ferguson labelled this as the biggest ever derby.
As much as City’s renaissance of late has propelled them back in to the race, in reality the title is United’s to lose. Yes, City have the confidence and momentum to give them a chance to strike (despite Roberto Mancini’s protestations) following recent wins, the odds overwhelmingly favour United (in their favour by 76.5%-23.5% according to the Euro Club Index rankings) and with the three-point lead inspite of the final games do look – on paper at least – more accommodating for United than they do for City.
It has been a fascinating race between the two Manchester clubs over the course of the season, with at times the battle between the pair played out at a breathtaking pace. At one stage it appeared that we could see a record points total needed to the win the league with both sides on course for in excess of 90 points. At the halfway point, the two sides were locked together on 45 points and I wrote that if either side replicated this return then they would ultimately triumph; and so it will prove.
City now hold sway in terms of goal difference, with a cushion of six goals heading into the game – which of course could prove so vital if City do get the win on Monday – and a feature of the season is both sides goalscoring ability, with United totalling 86 and City 87 respectively. As we can see, both City and United have maintained a consistent goals per game return, despite points at the season where both saw challenges in front of goal with United in particular boosting their tally over the second half of the season:
Both teams have also consistently featured at the top of end of the table in terms of the ability to convert their opportunities, as we can see from the following graphic:
We have also seen that City have the better goals against record and despite absences at times of both Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott – they have managed to maintain more consistency in terms of selection in defence, and this is perhaps reflected in the following graphic that outlines a breakdown of goals conceded:
Whilst United have a higher number of clean sheets it is telling that City have conceded three or more goals only once this season (the home draw with Sunderland), indicative of United’s greater inconsistency – a reflection surely of the injuries to key personnel in this area – but this is an area I looked at earlier in the season and showed that even at that stage United were more prone to conceding chances than other sides in their position and we can see that through the season they are more prone to conceding chances and committing errors (United stats on left, City on right):
Next Page: A look at the numbers behind the goals… (Click bottom right or top right for link to next page)
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