Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

As City floor Newcastle Ferguson says title race is over

Newcastle 0 Man City 2

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini celebrates the 2nd goal against Newcastle

At the end of the game, even Roberto Mancini could not stop himself walking on to the pitch and hugging some of the players for whom he represents, for most of the time, a rather distant unyielding authority figure.

He even seemed to be having a laugh and a joke with Samir Nasri as the two of them walked down the St James' Park tunnel at the end of the game.

By the time he had composed himself for his post-match press conference, Mancini was back in the mode of City's chief denier.

Would he be watching Manchester United play Swansea on television? No, he wanted to go home. Were Manchester City the favourites for the title now? Maybe. How did it feel to be standing on the brink of history? He would get back to us all come next Sunday evening.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, however, admitted that City “have two hands on the trophy” prior even to his own side’s victory over Swansea.

But however much Mancini chooses to deny it, the City fans who walk down Joe Mercer Way in six days' time will believe that they are heading towards an historic day in their club's history.

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. City go into the final weekend of the season with a goal difference eight superior to United, knowing that they only have to match their old rivals' result to win the title. They face a Queen's Park Rangers team managed by Mark Hughes, still fighting for their Premier League status after yesterday's win over Stoke. But City do so at home, where they have only dropped two points all season and have not lost in the league since December 2010.

United must go to Sunderland, the only team to have got a point at the Etihad all season, as they attempt to keep pace with City.

Bitter experience will tell the blue side they have found more than one way to concede a losing position in the past. Perhaps the old ways are changing at last. The condition that Joe Royle once described as “City-itis”, the innate capacity to blow it, was a feature of their past but yesterday they took the penultimate step towards vanquishing it forever.

With 20 minutes of the game left and Mancini reshuffling his team dramatically, other sides might have lost their nerve. Plenty of teams have run United close over the years but not quite cleared the final hurdle. Yesterday City found it from somewhere to turn this game against one of the best teams in the division when they might just have faded away and handed the advantage back to United.

Great title-winning teams have the wherewithal to find a goal from somewhere. That was the case on 70 minutes yesterday when Toure exchanged passes with Sergio Aguero and curled his shot just inside the post.

The heart-in-mouth moment for Newcastle came with two minutes of normal time allotted when substitute Shola Ameobi had a clear shot at goal. It was blocked by Micah Richards, only introduced to the game in place of David Silva three minutes earlier. It was the kind of moment upon which games are won and lost and a minute later City had scored their second.

By then they had a five-man defence but when Aguero stole the ball from Yohan Cabaye in midfield with a minute remaining he was accompanied on the break by De Jong, Gael Clichy and Toure. The ball was passed in that sequence before Toure clipped it past Krul from close range.

Next week, modern-day City will face a QPR staff and team made up of the City of the past: the likes of Hughes, Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Nedum Onuoha. It will be a good reminder of how far they have come but there will be no better symbol of that than if they have the Premier League trophy at the end of the day.

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