Manchester United does not play until tomorrow, yet the bookies are already pondering whether to block any further bets on the title race. Some will even contemplate paying out on United if they win tomorrow in their match against Everton at Old Trafford.
Manchester City had to win today at Southampton, a club that is fighting to get out of the relegation spots at the bottom of the league table. However, in one of the most abject performances by Manchester City since the Arab takeover, they were outplayed and out-muscled in a torpid display that must surely end their faint hopes of retaining their title.
The score line of 3-1 for Southampton barely gives justice to the completeness of their dominance in a surprisingly one-sided affair at St. Marys. City welcomed back their talisman, Yaya Toure, back from the African Cup of Nations, but he could hardly muster a canter all through the match. To compound matters, coach Mancini did not have the luxury of having Carlos Tevez on the bench. He was missing, citing "personal problems2 for his absence. This, of course, will sound familiar to City fans that had to endure his antics last season, only for him to suddenly come back to the club, probably when he realised that there was a chance of a trophy.
Today’s result, follows a bad week for City and Chelsea, after the Premier League decided to implement financial controls to prevent billionaire owners from pumping millions of pounds into clubs. There are suggestions that a salary cap or some kind of limit on the wage roll, will follow soon. This will mean an end to the ludicrous spending by both these clubs, highlighted by the scandal of up to thirty players from each club out on loan around Europe, whilst City and Chelsea have to pick up the wages. This has to stop and the Financial Fair Play rules being implemented by the Premier League and EUFA should see an end to this practice.
United play Everton tomorrow, with Marouanne Fellaini a possible absentee with a hip injury. If coach Moyes does play him, it represents a risk. Sir Alex has already made it clear that there will not be a repeat of last season, when United blew an 8 point lead with just a handful of games left.
I expect to see a determined performance tomorrow and an emphatic victory to seal a 12 point gap at the top with only 12 games left. That should prove an unassailable position and Sir Alex can expect to see Manchester United pull away from Liverpool’s 18 titles.