If Manchester City beat Tottenham at home on Saturday the gap between the two clubs in the Premier League will be 21 points after 18 games. Tottenham are seen as an emerging force and potential champions but that is an extraordinary gulf in points at this stage of the season. City keep winning and they can keep the run going in this fixture at the Etihad Stadium that is live on television.
After beating Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Wednesday Manchester United are still in second place but 11 points adrift of City with a winnable match at West Brom this Sunday. Jose Mourinho is not giving up on the title but deep down he must realise that the game is up. At some stage he will focus on the Champions League and team selection will reflect his priorities.
Old Trafford is a wonderful stadium and the match day experience is second to none. It was cold and wet in Manchester on Wednesday but the ground was almost full. The club are generating a fortune from merchandising and hospitality but going to a match at Old Trafford has become sanitised. Everything works well but it’s functional and that applies to the football as much as the off-field operation.
Roy Keane famously talked about the prawn sandwich brigade and the demographic and social class of the average supporter has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. The club have a wonderful infrastructure for eating and drinking before and after the match and even in December after some poor weather the playing surface is immaculate. The facilities are in keeping with one of the richest clubs in the world but something was lacking at the stadium.
It’s almost as if the efficiency of the operation has been translated into the action on the pitch. Bournemouth were well drilled and knew where to move and play and United scored in the first half and had very few chances to add to the tally. The atmosphere in the stands could be described as insipid but not many in the crowd approaching 75,000 seemed to mind. On balance football is a much better spectator sport than it was in the bad old days but something has been lost.
Its is a cliché but the crowd on Wednesday night was multinational. There were pockets in the stands singing and standing up and there were strands of ‘Ooh Ah Cantona’ but generally it was more like going to the theatre so its apt the stadium is known as The Theatre of Dreams. United got the job done and are back winning and that can continue on the road at West Brom on Saturday.
On all known form City will have beaten Tottenham on the previous day. The champions-elect have now won 15 league matches in a row and that is a record. They are on course for breaking the points won record and could create a new mark for the margin of points over the second placed team at the end of the season. City have spent a fortune on players and the coach and their fans would say its value for money. Beating United so easily at Old Trafford is a massive feather in their cap.
City’s run of wins is a record for the top four divisions in England since the Football League was founded in 1888. Alan Shearer believes City are one of the best teams in the history of the game. Only Everton have denied them victory after 17 fixtures in the league. Tottenham have flattered to deceive and are not playing well enough to stop City’s winning streak. Some bookmakers have already paid out bets on the club to win the Premier League this season and they won’t have to pay out twice because City are unstoppable and unbeatable just now.
Bournemouth look a decent outfit and they can beat a stuttering Liverpool at home. Sam Allardyce has cancelled Everton’s Christmas party so they should be fit and prepared to beat Swansea at Goodison Park. Leicester are a decent mid-table outfit and should have too much for Crystal Palace at their own ground. However, it’s the televised matches involving the Manchester clubs that will get most attention and United and City can both pick up three points.