For the first time since the inception of the Premier League 20 years ago, goal difference appears set to be the deciding factor in electing the champions.
The two Manchester clubs are locked on points going into the final game, with the Manchester City goal difference eight better than that of Manchester United. City face relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers at home, while their rivals travel to Sunderland.
United’s biggest away win against the Black Cats was a 5-1 victory back in 1981, but in truth all talk of an overhaul of City’s advantage is frivolous. Even if City only manage a one goal victory over QPR, United will be left needing a nine goal margin of their own.
United’s forwards will shoulder some of the blame for a season that should have yielded more goals for them. In Sunday’s win against Swansea, United registered 26 attempts on goal yet managed to find the net only twice.
This is indicative of a number of games throughout the campaign where United looked as though they had more goals in them but failed to go on to secure a high-scoring win. The home games against Chelsea, Bolton, Fulham and Stoke provide examples of this.
However it is difficult to look past the Manchester derby at Old Trafford as the most decisive of games with regards to goal difference. United refused to accept defeat in that game, and were punished with late goals when searching for a route back into it themselves.
The 6-1 scoreline provided a swing of ten goals that has ultimately proved the difference between the two sides going into their final fixtures. Had United shut up shop in the closing stages with the score at 3-1, the difference at half time against Swansea would have been down to just two goals. There is little doubt we would have seen a different second half than the subdued acceptance of victorious defeat that was witnessed.
But the 6-1 stands and thanks to this City are in the box seat to claim the league title. If they do so on goal difference, then you have to say it is deserved.
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