The much anticipated weekend supposedly poised to determine the destination came and went without raising much excitement, probably after the realisation of the obvious scenarios of the expected win by both Manchester City and Manchester United, albeit with identical 2-0 score-lines.
There was a measure of frustration, first from Arsenal after their ping-pong 3-3 draw with Norwich City. The Gunners looked set to cement the Champions League spot with Robin van Persie late strike but the fat lady had not yet sung.
Matching the misfortunes of their arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspurs failed to capitalise on the situation and succumbed to a dull 1-1 draw of their own.
The Newcastle defeat by City shifted the interest from the top two Manchester sides to who will deputise their dominance. There is no shadow of doubt that many neutrals will be interested in that battle for third than the actual championship.
With Wolves and Blackburn relegated, that end also looks less attractive to worry about now. A few fans will be looking forward to the revenge of Liverpool over Chelsea over the FA Cup’s controversial goal that. Given the cool stakes, it will not matter to The Blues as they prepare for the UEFA Champions League final, but The Reds will want to nail it still.
Revisiting the excitement of the City-Newcastle encounter as well as the drool of the United-Swansea affair, it was interesting how the two matches proceeded.
There was entertainment value in the first and panic in the second. The Citizens were more cautious and with good reason, given the Magpies’ deadly form of late. The match revolved around a two-forked Cisse/Ba versus Lescott/ Kompany battle, the later pair being a formidable partnership, for me the best anyway in Europe.
City would always boast of the central defensive pairing even without say Joelen Lescott as Koloe Toure is as impenetrable. The presence of Nigel de Jong as well as Yaya Toure proved the difference in cutting supply to the sublime finishers of the St James Park duo. It turned out to be a Yaya show as the Alan Pardew’s men had no answers to neutralise his forward forays.
It was however the mind-boggling Sir Alex Ferguson who turned up with a line-up spearheaded by the quiet Chicharito. He was ably assisted by Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney and Antonio Valencia in that pyramidal order. The intentions were clear and he would have been a hero of many had it worked out the way it was supposed to
For many, Dimitri Berbetov may have started alongside Rooney as a pyramid that would have a base that included Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick. While the obvious urgency of the team could not be questioned, the methods of unlocking the comprehensively patient Swansea was very wrong.
The rhythm of play and changing of tempo was never going to bother the inexperienced visitors. That match could have easily been lost and United would be fielding a second rate team in their last match of the season. City would have been presented with the Championship even before their second last match.
The goal difference did not start to matter with two matches left and it was not any one’s fault. That line-up represented the panic mode of one revered SAF. If he showed that much lack of nerves, the routine Scholes’ coolness in taking the first one cannot be a judging parameter, but Young’s goal is. The team was more mentally prepared that their mentor.
Newcastle now two very unlikely events to finish third; the loses of Arsenal and Spurs against West Brom and Fulham respectively. For one, Spur will blast Fulham while the Gunners will scrap a point. Their champions league spot will depend on the fate of the title. The Blues will have to lose it for them to be in it.
Manchester United won titles because of great players and in the season they needed their manager the most, he let them down.