United have won 10 and drawn one of their last 11 league games. That, more than events at the Etihad Stadium, is why City have relinquished the Premier League lead.
Manchester United rising to City's challenge
Capitulation. Calamity. Meltdown. Judging by the reactions to Manchester City's recent results, it would be easy to assume that this is a team in free fall. In fact, the Mancunian side on an exceptional run are Manchester United and it is an exceptionally good run.
They have won 10 and drawn one of their last 11 league games. That, more than events at the Etihad Stadium, is why City have relinquished the Premier League lead.
City already have scored 15 more goals than they did last season and have taken as many points as they accumulated in the whole of the 2010/11 campaign. They have raised the bar.
Unfortunately, for them, United, like the Ukraine pole vaulter Sergey Bubka, at his record-breaking best, hoisted it higher still.
At Ewood Park on Monday, the travelling United fans gleefully sang "City's cracking up". With Mario Balotelli arguing on the pitch with Aleksandar Kolarov and Roberto Mancini publicly criticising his errant striker, so it may seem.
Except that, in each of their last three games, City have come from behind to earn a result. United are renowned for scoring late goals, but City have mustered several of their own. Such comebacks are proof of spirit and substance.
In the final reckoning, they may count for little. If United beat QPR today and City lose at Arsenal, the title race may effectively be over.
It may go down in history as the year City blew their chance, but it should not. It should be remembered as the season when, after worthy challengers emerged, United produced the response of true champions.
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