It took just 43 seconds for Manchester City to take the lead against their cross-city rivals on Tuesday night, as they attacked United from the first whistle and found their reward quickly through Edin Dzeko’s goal inside the opening minute. City went on to beat the reigning Premiership Champions 3-0, to claim their third consecutive derby victory and fifth in the last six meetings between the two clubs. After going behind so early, Manchester United did respond well and the rest of the first half was an end-to-end contest with both sides looking dangerous on the break. However, after the interval the gulf in class between the two teams was evident as City pulled away and extended their advantage when Dzeko grabbed his second from a corner, then YaYa Toure completed the scoring in the final minute.
While Manuel Pelligrini’s men are looking upwardly mobile and now sit just three points behind leaders Chelsea with two games in hand, the defeat appears to have been the last straw for many United fans who are starting to openly revolt over David Moyes’ stewardship of the club. Perhaps the most telling evidence of this is not that a group of supporters are planning on flying a plane over Old Trafford during their match on Saturday calling on the Scot to be sacked, but that Sir Alex Ferguson – who handpicked Moyes as his successor – reportedly received abuse in the Director’s Box on Tuesday evening – if the United faithful are ready to turn on their most successful ever manager, then things must be getting bad. It was the 10th defeat of the league season for the Red Devils – their most ever in the Premiership era – and they now look unlikely to qualify even for the Europa League, which would mark the first time they have not been in a European competition since 1989-90, when all English clubs were banned from competing as a result of the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985 (the last season United were eligible to play in a European competition and did not was 1981-2). The statistics back up just how badly United have been at home this season: their record is won 6, drawn 3, lost 6, while they have scored just 18 times in those 15 games (compared with 45 in 19 fixtures last season with basically the same squad) and have conceded the same number. But no matter what the numbers say, the biggest indictment on the failings of Moyes tenure is that when you are watching Manchester United play now, you do not believe they will be able to beat the best teams – they look and perform like a second tier Premiership club.
Next up for Manchester City following that derby victory is a trip to Arsenal on Saturday and they once again have the opportunity to pile onto the problems of one of England’s most established teams who are having a tough time. It seems to happen every year that the Gunners have a major stumble around February or March, as a previously promising looking campaign comes tumbling down and they end up recovering only enough to finish a single place above Tottenham. On Tuesday, following on from their 6-0 thrashing by Chelsea, Arsenal faced a home match against Swansea, who had failed to win in their previous seven games and are hovering just above the relegation zone. The Swans took a lead into half-time as Wilfried Bony climbed above Per Metersacker to head in the opener, but the home team responded with two goals in 66 seconds to turn the match around and appeared to give Arsene Wenger’s men a victory that would have moved them to within four points of the top of the Premiership. However, in the final minute their was chaos in the Arsenal box as Leon Britton’s attack was thwarted by Metersacker, but his interception bounced off Wojciech Szczesny and Matthieu Flamini then into the net to give the Welsh side a much-needed point and all but end the title hopes for the Gunners, who sit 6 points behind leaders Chelsea, 5 of Liverpool and 3 of City, who have two extra games left to play.
Rather than looking to catch the teams above them, Arsenal must now be looking over their shoulder as they try to hang onto the final Champions League spot, with Everton closing in on them. The Toffees won their fourth consecutive Premiership fixture with a 3-0 defeat of Newcastle at St. James’s Park, with the opener coming from a 70 yard run by Ross Barkley, who had started the move by helping clear a corner from the edge of his own penalty area, before picking up the ball and running straight at the home side before finishing past Tim Krul. Although the gap between Everton and Arsenal is 6 points, the Merseyside club have a game in hand and the two teams meet at Goodison Park next weekend, not to mention that the Gunners face Manchester City this Saturday, while the Toffees are playing bottom side Fulham. Nevertheless, the remainder of the run-in heavily favors Arsenal who, after their trip to Everton, have home fixtures against West Ham, Newcastle and West Brom, with their last two away games being at Hull and Norwich; while Roberto Martinez’s men still have to play both Manchester clubs (well I guess City will still be tough, if not United).