It's not yet December and there's plenty more twists and turns to come… but the title IS going back to Manchester (now start the real battle between United and City)
13:51 GMT, 29 November 2012
Take your pick, blue or red, the title is going back to Manchester.
While the rest of the Barclays Premier League flounders and flaps beneath them, champions Manchester City and their city rivals United continue to flourish. Chelsea are in disarray, Arsenal are nowhere near again, and the rest are only good enough to challenge for fifth.
The 2012/13 season is a two-horse race.
That's why we're champions: Mario Balotelli celebrates Manchester City's win at Wigan on Wednesday
All too easy: Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney enjoy Manchester United's win over West Ham
Next weekend’s showdown at the Etihad Stadium will of course not decide the outcome of the title race but it will give the victors a substantial advantage going into the Christmas programme.
The rest of them will merely have a say in the destination of the trophy by taking points off the Manchester giants. They can forget about winning it.
The fixtures that will decide the title
Sunday December 9:
Manchester City v Manchester United
Saturday April 6*:
Manchester United v Manchester City
*Date subject to change
Fourteen games into the campaign and City remain the only unbeaten team in the land.
Roberto Mancini’s tinkering may be perplexing at times, but the Italian is getting away with it at the moment. And City look invincible at home.
Take his substitution at Wigan last night. City fans were scratching their heads when the City boss gave striker Sergio Aguero the hook and sent on Aleksandar Kolarov in his place, leaving Mario Balotelli to plough a potentially lonely furrow as the spearhead of City’s attack. Within seconds, the Italian striker had scored his first of the season and City were on their way to their ninth league win, which leaves them just a point behind United.
There is talk that Mancini will not
be strengthening his squad in January’s transfer window. But he has the
resources should he decide to do so, as do United.
if he can leave Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Scott Sincalir unemployed,
as he did at the DW Stadium last night, why splash the cash
Not good enough: Fernando Torres and Chelsea are in disarray under interim manager Rafa Benitez
In form: But despite Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale, neither Arsenal or Spurs are good enough to win the title
The riches he can turn to, and the ability of the likes of James Milner and Dzeko to vent their frustration on opponents is one of City’s primary strengths. And it’s matched only by their great rivals.
The impact Robin van Persie has made at Old Trafford does not come as a great surprise.
The former Arsenal striker’s 31 second blast against West Ham was his 12th already in a United shirt, and his 105th in the Premier League since he moved from Feyenoord eight years ago.
And his partnership with Wayne Rooney has barely started to register yet as Sir Alex Ferguson tries to find the right formula to make them the deadliest duo in the league.
United are not playing that well. They have been behind in nine of their league encounters so far and although van Persie’s early opener gave them the cushion required against Sam Allardyce’s side, they were never completely comfortable, even on home territory.
But they have already established that healthy champions’ habit of wining matches when they are not firing on all cylinders, a trait which has proved so useful to Ferguson’s teams over the years.
It is all new to City, as is defending your title. And if they can’t do that efficiently over the next six months, starting with United’s visit on December 9, they will be handing the coveted title back to Sir Alex in May.
AND WHO COULD FORGET WHAT HAPPENED IN LAST YEAR'S EPIC MANCHESTER DERBIES
Why always him Mario Balotelli's double at Old Trafford last October inspired City to an incredible 6-1 win
Noisy neighbours: Vincent Kompany screams with delight after heading the winner at the Etihad in April
Blue Moon rising: The two derby victories proved crucial as City won the title on goal difference