MANCHESTER CITY 4 vs WEST BROM 0
MANCHESTER City manager Roberto Mancini insists last night’s dramatic comeback in the Premier League title race has come too late to stop neighbours and arch-rivals Manchester United.
City roared back into form in emphatic fashion with their first win in four games, which slashed United’s lead to five points with five games remaining, following the champions’ shock defeat at struggling Wigan.
Striker Sergio Aguero netted twice and fit-again David Silva also notched, but perhaps the most significant scorer was Carlos Tevez, who registered his first goal of the season following a long self-imposed exile.
Victory reignited a tussle for the trophy that looked to have been snuffed out, and the gap could be down to just two points when United kick-off on Sunday, yet Mancini wrote off the prospect of a sensational comeback.
“United are a fantastic team and I don’t think they can lose five points,” he said. “For us it’s important we finish this good season well. This is the best season since 1968 and it’s important. I fight always, every day, and also my team but I think it’s too late.”
Mancini’s pessimism will be seen as kidology, an attempt to shift pressure away from his side, but he offered reasoning for his forecast.
“I think they have fantastic spirit, United,” he added. “We don’t have the same spirit and for this reason I think this is very difficult.”
City’s slump had mirrored the dips in form of Silva and Aguero, and it was the latter whose sixth-minute strike from 20 yards, after a typically surging run, relaunched their title challenge.
The Argentina star had to wait 45 minutes to add a second, darting onto a cushioned Samir Nasri through-ball before clinically side-footing across Ben Foster and into the far corner.
A third goal killed the game and it seemed symbolic that it should come from Tevez, the man whose five-month dispute with City’s hierarchy cast a shadow over even the sunniest of early-season results.
The rebel forward, eased back into the side since his fragile truce, opted for power from 12 yards after compatriot Aguero cut back, as if plunging a detonator on United’s recent unshakeable resolve.
Silva’s 65th-minute finish spoke of long-lost joy flooding back into City’s play, the Spaniard gracefully lifting over Foster from an angle as United, a few miles west in Wigan, strove in vain for an equaliser.
MANCHESTER UNITED 0 vs WIGAN ATHLETIC 1
BY TOM ROBINSON
MANCHESTER United boss Sir Alex Ferguson accused referee Phil Dowd of getting key decisions wrong last night after seeing his side’s Premier League lead cut to five points.
Winger Shaun Maloney’s long-range curler hauled struggling Wigan out of the bottom three, although a number of contentious calls also played a major part.
United have themselves benefited from controversial decisions in recent weeks but Ferguson was quick to highlight what he saw as injustices.
“I thought Phil Dowd had a disappointing game tonight and I don’t think he ever got to grips with it really,” he said. “But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Wigan were the better team and deserved to win.”
Both the corner that led to Wigan’s opener and a rejected penalty appeal for a Maynor Figueroa handball left Ferguson visibly irate on the touchline.
However, Wigan also had cause to complain after striker Victor Moses’s first-half header was harshly disallowed for an obstruction on United goalkeeper David de Gea by home captain Gary Caldwell.
The Latics did finally go ahead – and climb to 17th place – shortly after the break, when a short corner was played to Maloney, who unleashed a fine curled effort from 20 yards past the outstretched reach of De Gea.