Could this be the moment that defined this season's title race?
Could this be the moment that defined this season’s title race? ** image courtesy of zimbio**


It was in that exact minute and second that last season’s Premier League title race was ultimately defined. As it signalled the end of the Premier League season, celebrations ensued. Relief was clear for all to see. History had been made. Manchester United had been denied. Manchester City were champions.

That may not be the story any longer.

For as Sergio Aguero struck the most definitive strike of City’s recent history, United were forced to go back into their cocoons. Already prepared to receive the Premier League Trophy, they were now left with the sense of what might have been.

It is however, in these moments that Sir Alex Ferguson shines brightest. This forced him to react. His victory speech turned into a war cry. Remember this day, he told his team. Nobody will gloat at Manchester United again.

And from that, he set out the agenda that would seek to reclaim the title from the bitterest of city rivals. Ambitious transfer targets were made, Shinji Kagawa was met, Eden Hazard, Luka Modric and Lucas Moura were not. But ultimately, Robin Van Persie was.

It has been the business of the Dutchman to ensure that the Manchester outfit is flying high. His goals have brought about a definitive impact. None more so than the one that settled the Manchester derby. It is therefore why his current goal drought is sounding alarm bells.

But rather than it signalling a decline, it had already fuelled momentum. Recent wins over Reading and Sunderland have been grinding rather than exciting. Of late the rhythm and beat has been lost, but the accumulated acceleration has brought about a snowball effect.

This may be enough to ensure that they cross the finish line in first place. It may however be tight.  15 points looks an insurmountable lead for the chasing pack. It will also be remembered that last season, at a time when it seemed that United were eight points clear, City were able to claw back that advantage.

With eight games to go, 15 points is not entirely out of the question. But just as City will remember how they managed to snatch the title last season, United will remember how painfully it was snatched away. It is that memory, more than most that has bred a new monster.

The Manchester United of this season has looked relentlessly like champions. The resilience to see through every game, the need to avenge the events of last season has seemingly shaped the destiny of this season. Pain, it seems, has been their most unifying factor.

And it is the need to banish the memory of last season’s failing that seems to be carrying them through. To make it feel as if last season did not happen.

That is in keeping with the narrative of Sir Alex’s Manchester United career. In every season in which the Red Devils have finished second, they have gone on to win the Premier League in the next season.

The indication is that that will continue with this season. However, caution should be taken that it is not yet already won. City, Chelsea and Swansea are yet to visit Old Trafford. United are yet to visit the Emirates. If however the maximum of points are picked up in these games, the title could be wrapped up with barely four games to go.

If that is to happen, then United must rediscover their beat and rhythm. The next four games must be won, starting with the next game against City. After that, if Stoke City, West Ham United and Aston Villa are vanquished, then the visits of Chelsea and Swansea, as well as the trips to Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion will just be mere formalities.

As such, Van Persie will be needed to rediscover his goal scoring form. His assists have been helpful, his goals may just prove to conclusively finish off the title race.

When that happens, then United’s number 20 will have contributed to the club’s 20th League title. All because of that famous 20th second of the 93rd minute of last season.


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