Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: Manchester United in decline while Blue Moon keeps rising

Perhaps, I’m wrong: perhaps, the two managers concerned are right and the title race isn’t over. But I wouldn’t put too much faith in those billing the final day of the Premier League season ‘Seismic Sunday’ or anything similar. The Fat Lady has picked up her microphone and she’s wearing sky blue...

Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere at Old Trafford the other day was very flat, either reflecting the dull performance of the soon-to-be ex-Champions or inducing it.

Only one or two United players — to his credit, Ashley Young was amongst them — seemed urgent in pursuit of goals that would reduce City’s advantage. The truth is they’d placed all their hopes on Newcastle.

Before a eulogy begins about City, I say again there’s nothing special about this particular Manchester United team. It’s not a patch on others in red that I’ve been privileged to watch. This team isn’t in transition, as Sir Alex likes to say, it’s in decline: in most areas.

The recall of Paul Scholes was, to some degree, an inspired decision but it was also desperate.

For how long has it been obvious that United needed a commanding, controlling figure in the centre of midfield? Why wasn’t Wesley Sneijder plucked from Inter Milan when the player was clearly interested? Did the club lack the will or the means? Are United really short of money?

Is that why Ferguson so trusts the development of the likes of Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, players talked up so much you’d think they were already the finished article? They’re not.

And here’s the thing: if Manchester City detect the slightest weakness in their ranks they don’t have to bust their bank to bring others in. Did you sense an element of ‘farewell’ in Robin van Persie’s wave to the crowd after the Norwich game?

Also, please let’s not hear this moan that City have ‘bought’ the title. Yes, they have but that’s a ‘tradition’ that’s been followed throughout the Premier League era. Didn’t Blackburn ‘buy’ the championship under Jack Walker in 1995?

Haven’t successive Chelsea teams, under Abramovich, and Arsenal teams, when they spent their money, done exactly the same? And United? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black?

Of course, it hurts at Old Trafford. Feel their pain when they’re asking each other if they’ve ever heard of Kagawa when those headache-provoking neighbours are lining up Eden Hazard and Daniele De Rossi. And it’ll go on..

The City bench at St James Park had Edin Dzeko, Micah Richards, James Milner, Adam Johnson, Nigel de Jong and Alexsandar Kolarov on it, all of them internationals.

Sir Alex has one remaining, forlorn hope. QPR may need something to avoid relegation and Mark Hughes is brimful of resentment but I can’t see it posting an insurmountable final hurdle. No, the Blue Moon has risen domestically. I wonder what City’s odds are for the Champions League next season..

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