And so we head towards that part of the season where the medals become real, as Sir Alex calls it ‘squeaky bum time’.
Manchester City begin that period looking more like its ‘brown diaper time’ as we call it here in California, you could smell the fear 6000 miles away as a small town Welsh club playing in the English Premier League, made the expensive Emirates funded blues look like scared children.
So d’ya have the bottle City?
Of course its only one game, and who could judge a run in on that basis , but fact is that the chase is now on, and if Manchester United beat Wolves then the gap will be 4 points with City playing Chelsea on a cold, wet night against a team fighting for a Champions League place. It could be that we are out of sight before we meet them on 30th April. Incredible though that might sound, it could be true.
The worst United team in recent memory could romp away with the title after all, leaving those of us bemoaning the lack of investment looking rather silly, or am I wrong?
Frankly, watching Barcelona win 7-1 against Bayer Leverkusen days before United beat West Brom, just proved to me that the gulf in class is the English Channel, and that the EPL is the reason we can win a league that’s bad while losing our way in Europe.
City and United are showing why England is like Scotland, 2 clubs in a poor league dominating weak teams, or maybe like Cardiff and Swansea dominate Wales. There is nothing good to come from this.
Watching Spurs normal March collapse, Arsenal’s resurgence, Chelsea firing their manager – its all so familiar. An annual event, call it what you will.
United are slipping, make no mistake. They will not win the Champions League anytime soon. City are on the rise but they also wont win it, they may never win the EPL either if Sheikh rattle ‘n roll gives up on the oil filled dream and leaves them with overpaid players on crazy contracts with no income, or even if they have to comply with fair play rules and no sell naming rights for ridiculous sums while snubbing FIFA.
All I want is a strong competitive league where we see excellent football week in week out. Of course United win that league in my dreams, and challenge the best in Europe to be the best in the world.
But actually the ratio of wages to income, the Bosman contracts of 5 or 6 years and the wasted millions by owners with more greenback than sense, means that we will see more sides like Glasgow Rangers than Barcelona, and more 2 horse races than close finishes in a pack.
This weekend I could ski or watch United against Wolves, normally no competition but given the gulf in class I am off to the slopes.
City may smell like a curried toilet on a Sunday morning but they really only proved they care about a league that’s lost its shine, lost its edge and lost its way.
FIFA, the FA and the EPL are all acronyms for a joke that become modern soccer, where money matters more than performance and where corruption smells like City’s shorts after Saturday.
I think it’s over Roberto Mancini, but I like that you care.
By Steve Burrows CBE @ifollowsteve