Monday, 5 December 2011

Why Defeat In Europe For City Will Hand United The Title


It was just over 18 months ago that a steaming Sir Alex Ferguson risked an international incident by laying into those ‘typical Germans’ at Bayern Munich.

His nose was glowing a bright red as his vented his frustration at being knocked out at Old Trafford by his old adversaries back in April 2010.

It was an anger stirred up in the volatile Scot by what he felt was Bayern Munich's targeting of an injured Wayne Rooney and the successful attempt to get defender Rafael da Silva sent off.

More than a season has passed since then but be certain Ferguson has not forgotten or forgiven.

But for him, this week it's a case of ``my enemy's enemy is my friend'' as the Champions League group stages shape up into an exciting scenario for once.

At this stage there are usually more dead rubbers than you'll find left in Frankie Cocozza's hotel room after a party.

Not this time round, the competition has some high stakes games on the agenda. None more so than Manchester City's clash with those `typical Germans'.

For if Bayern Munich refuse to crumble at Etihad Stadium there will be no way back for the Blues - no matter what the result is in Villarreal.

Roberto Mancini's men will endure a teary eyed exit from the Champions League whilst Ferguson should be punching the air in delight.

I say should be, as United also have to come through a tricky trip to Basel before booking their own place in the knock-out stages.

If they can complete a task that is within their capabilities by grabbing a draw, the Reds will wake up on Thursday morning knowing the Premier League crown is theirs.

That is the how important this week is to the race for the title. Am I being melodramatic? I don't think so.

Ask Tony Pulis what he thinks, or Martin Jol. Canvas the opinion of Harry Redknapp and Alex McLeish. They will put you right.

For if City are dumped into the Europa League competition that those managers are currently fighting in, any dream of the title is gone.

It is impossible to play games on Thursday and Sunday and win enough matches to become champions.

What about City's huge squad, I hear you cry. They've spent a fortune European proofing their side by bringing in expensive stars, you may point out.

And that is true, but it's not just the tired legs I believe will kill off their title dream. There is far more to it than that.

Just last week I sat down with Pulis to talk about the strain the Europa League is putting on his club.

There's the flying, the preparing for the game, the return trip home, the recovery and then the lack of preparation time for the third match of the week.

As Pulis said, ``it's the third match that is the hardest''. Manager's have no time to run through tactics. No time to properly assess which players can endure another 90 minutes, no time to go over defending corners and set-pieces.

A week's work is crammed into two hours on Saturday morning and in an era when the tinniest of details can make a massive difference, that is not long enough.

City, more than most, have the capabilities to cope. To win the majority of their Premier League matches - but not all of them. Chelsea, who are also in trouble, are in the same boat.

The upper hand is United's. An extra day to ease body and minds. An extra day on the training pitch. An extra day to consider tactics.

That gap at the top would soon be eaten up and stretched in the Reds favour.

Now Ferguson must be hoping to see those `typical Germans' doing what Germans do best. Efficiently winning games and, in this case, handing the title to Manchester United.

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