Danny Welbeck scored again against Arsenal. This time, unlike the last, it couldn’t have been important. When he last scored against Arsenal Manchester United won 8-2 and were so imperious on the day that it was a little surprising David De Gea, the Manchester United goalkeeper, did not manage to get on the scoresheet. This time, it was a late winner that kept Manchester United in the title race.
At a quick glance, considering the fixtures remaining this season and the strength of the squads available to Manchester United and Manchester City, it would be understandable for any football fan to say that Manchester City are going to win the English Premiership. Their run in is easier, compared to that of Manchester United, and their squad is stronger. What they don’t have is the experience and nous that Manchester United do have. There will be times, between now and the end of the season, when Manchester City are trailing by a goal and need some magic to sustain their run. There will be other times when the team have their backs against the wall and need all the experience they can muster just to hang on to a lead. Manchester United have done all of this before and will be counting on this single area where they dominate over their rivals as the key, the method, with which they will come out on top.
For any of those intangibles, like experience and magic, to count for something at the end of the campaign Manchester United had to win on Sunday at the Emirates and win they did. Manchester United, to use a tired but appropriate expression, stepped up to the plate and delivered. The question was asked and Manchester United asked it. Manchester United are still in the title race.
They began the match with a sense of inhibition and even, perhaps, a feeling of deflation. They had just seen their rivals, Manchester City, score a 94th minute penalty to secure victory. To feel deflated was only natural. By the end of the match, despite the bruises and fatigue, Manchester United will have felt re-invigorated and ready for the challenge that lies ahead. With almost all of their first choice back line injured, a midfield depleted with injuries all season long, and a strike force with too much focus on an inconsistent Wayne Rooney, Manchester United overcame the obstacles and lived to fight another day. The distance between second and first is only 3 points but those 3 points must feel like a million miles to Manchester United and a couple of inches to Manchester City.
The English Premiership of 2011/2012 will be won on the field and in the mind. The battle goes on.