A completely unforeseen set of results from the games over the New Year period saw points dropped from almost every club challenging for this season Barclays Premier League title..
Only Arsenal picked up maximum points in their win against QPR as United stumbled to a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford against Blackburn Rovers and City fell to an offside goal in the third minute of added time at Sunderland.
Only Sir Alex Ferguson will have been more angry in defeat than Roberto Mancini after his side had been frustrated at the Stadium of Light, once again losing concentration late in the game after wasting several gilt-edged chances to open up a lead on United again.
Even though replays showed that Ji Dong-won’s winner was offside Mancini was adamant that it was his team that deserved the points after Edin Dzeko and Micah Richards had struck the woodwork.
Perhaps it was with one eye on the Liverpool game in two days time on Tuesday that Mancini selected a weakened side with the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero on the bench and Mario Balotelli in the stand.
Either way, only Spurs gained some comfort in the title race as they claimed a point at Swansea yesterday; Arsene Wenger might consider three points against QPR to be little comfort as they still stand nine points behind their Manchester title rivals while Spurs are only six behind with a game in hand against Everton.
The January transfer window is open and, with an enthralling title race about to reach boiling point over the next six weeks, plenty of movement is expected from most clubs before the end of the months.
After being forced to field a succession of players out of position, United’s injury crisis may improve in January but it seems clear that their lack of a creative force in midfield could hamper them in the run-in even if their injury list eases soon.
City’s problems would appear to stem from fixture pile-up and player exhaustion and with the Toure brothers likely to be missing from the crucial January/February period, Mancini will be hoping that players like Carlos Tevez, Wayne Bridge and Nedum Onuoha leave the club so that he can bring in reinforcements while adhering to the FIFA Financial fair play rules.
The dark horse at this stage has to be Harry Redknapp’s Spurs team. With momentum on their side they could yet upset the Manchester two-horse race for the title.
City’s January games:
3rd: Liverpool (H)
8th: Man Utd (H) FA Cup 3rd Round
11th: Liverpool (H) Carling Cup Semi Final 1st Leg
16th: Wigan (A)
22nd: Tottenham (H)
25th: Liverpool (A) Carling Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg
United’s January Games:
8th: Man City (A) FA Cup 3rd Round
14th: Bolton (H)
22nd: Arsenal (A)
31st: Stoke (H)