Last day drama characterises the greatest ever title race
You could have been forgiven for thinking that the title race was a foregone conclusion for Manchester City. The equation was simple; beat relegation threatened QPR at home and win the league. The reality proved to be something quite different on what most people would describe as the greatest season finale the Premier League has seen in its 20 year history.
At 4.45pm yesterday afternoon it was all over. A party was about to start in Sunderland and Alex Ferguson looked set to rejoice in yet another Premier League title win. In stark contrast, tears had started to roll down the cheeks of City fans at the Etihad as their side trailed ten men QPR by two goals to one.
Three minutes later and United had done their bit having beaten Sunderland 1-0 thanks to Wayne Rooney’s first half strike. News was reaching the Stadium of Light that City had equalised thanks to Edin Dzeko’s stoppage time finish, but not even the most cynical United fan could have imagined that City would score again. The title was surely there for the red half of Manchester now, they had done it.
And then, the unthinkable happened.
Piling pressure on their opponents, City launched a wave of attack: the last throw of the title deciding dice. After a scramble on the edge of the box, QPR failed to clear and the ball broke to Sergio Aguero, who skipped past two players and managed to get the ball out of his feet before firing into the top corner of Paddy Kenny’s goal. 3-2 City. Victory. Jubilation.
The afternoon symbolised everything that has been so mesmerising about the 2011/12 Premier League season. The campaign has been defined by unexpected drama which held through not only to the last game but the dying seconds of what has been a golden year for top flight football in England.
After clawing a nine point deficit back in the final third of the season, nobody can deny that Manchester City are unworthy champions. The character shown throughout the season by Roberto Mancini’s has been phenomenal and even when everything looked like it was about to go United’s way yesterday, their noisy neighbours pulled something fairytale-like out of the hat to secure the title.
It has to be said however that Manchester United didn’t lose the title on the last day of the season. A loss against Wigan was a hammer blow, especially when coupled with their inability to stop Everton pulling two goals back into an extraordinary game to level the score at 4-4 just two weeks later. Margins such as those will be the ones examined, especially when you consider that just eight goals separated the top two.
I fully believe that City have played the better football this season and fully deserve their newly acquired Champions status. The close season in Manchester will be enthralling to see, as United badly need strength in the spine of their side, particularly in the centre of midfield. Likewise it is hard to see City not spending more money in search of a title retention and European glory next time around.
If the title battle this year taught us anything about football then the lesson would be expect the unexpected. City were down and out in March yet crowned champions in May. United will be left licking their wounds but will come back fighting next season. Alex Ferguson perhaps has one more score to settle in his time as United boss, and that is to see a role reversal of the current situation in a year’s time.
After all that we got as much drama as anyone could have wished for. So much in fact that every football fan will remember where they were on the day that City stole back the title in the unlikeliest of circumstances. Football was characterised in all its glory yesterday, and it’s moments like that which make me sit back and think... I do love this game.