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Manchester United

Could 2012 be just another 1996?

Much has been said about the final outcome of this Premier League season. Experts have offered their views, fans have voiced their beliefs while managers have set up smokescreens to shift pressure on their opponents. With nine games left, Manchester United have a 4-point advantage over cross-town rivals City who have one game in hand – tomorrow night’s home clash with Chelsea – bookmakers, including Victor Chandler, have heavily backed Mancini’s men for the title up until now, now they’ve swung their preferences towards the red half of Manchester.

Despite the hype that has surrounded this season since the first ball was kicked back in August, it’s striking to see how much, in some terms, this campaign resembles the 1995-96 season.

Then like now, we had a Manchester United deemed not good enough to win the title – too many kids back then, too many kids and a two players who defy age now – and a team that had started the season scoring for fun and looked like they would run away with the league – Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle in 1996, Roberto Mancini and Manchester City in 2012.

Back then, despite a 2-0 win at home in December, United still trailed the Magpies by seven points, a gap that had opened to 12-point by January.
This year, after a promising start, the Red Devils relinquished the lead as they failed to beat Liverpool at Anfield, before being humbled at home 6-1 by City the following week.

Their derby win put City five points ahead of United, a gap which Fergie’s men manage to close, albeit temporarily, as City conceded defeat against Chelsea midway through December, before being level on points at the turn of the year.

Much as they had done in 1996 (when they were thumped 4-1 at Spurs on New Year’s Day, before drawing 0-0 against Villa) though, United saw their rivals slip away again, as they were beaten away by Newcastle.

United then patiently cut down the deficit to the point where they now find themselves four points ahead, albeit having played a game more, while City are starting to show the first signs of tiredness and fatigue.

Furthermore, City travel to Norwich, Stoke, Newcastle and Arsenal before the end of the season while United face a (theoretically) much easier run in which, again, is similar to what happened in 1996 when Newcastle faced trips to Highbury and Anfield during the run-in, losing both games – 1-0 at Arsenal and that 4-3 against Liverpool.

All this season needs, is Mancini delivering an outburst live on BBC, claiming that he’d love to see United defeated.

Should that happen then we could really say that we’ve relived 1996 all over again, the fact that in today’s press conference he came out and almost promised his employers and their Bitter Blue fans all over the World Stockport the title may just suggest the bookies have it right and City are about to buckle.

Apart from Gary Barlow and the Spice Girls at number one, obviously.

Daniele Cancian (@MUFC_dan87)