The title race looks like the tale of one City and Manchester served up a quite a script on Super Sunday.
It was a day that had everything from surprise selections, great goals, late drama to A-listers Robert Duvall and Tom Cruise appearing on the show. There were well-documented problems off the field which must be dealt with firmly by the authorities but on the field it was simply a brilliant game of football.
The late twist from Robin van Persie's free kick saw Manchester United shorten with Sky Bet from 5/6 to 8/15 to win the title, with City drifting from 13/10 to 2/1. The gap is six points but it's guaranteed that there will be many more twists before things are decided. We learnt last season never to take anything for granted in the Premier League.
United have a nice cushion at the top and are in good shape with important players returning from injury but I still believe it's a brave move to wade in at 8/15. City are too good not to hit their stride at some point and go on a decent winning run.
Quotes of the week
Sky Bet's Premier League Title odds: 8/15 Man Utd, 2/1 Man City, 12/1 Chelsea, 80/1 bar
Man City showed on Sunday that they have the character and determination to take United to the wire again. Their second-half comeback was superb. You could see from Pablo Zabaleta and his teammates' reaction to the equaliser, the way they sprinted back to the halfway line, showed that they meant business and were intent on pushing on for the win.
They are a team full of leaders and winners and with a spine of Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart will not go down without a fight. Don't underestimate Zabaleta's role either. I think he's a key part of this team as much for what he does off the field as what he does on it. At a club with so many stars, Zabaleta is a large part of the glue that helps keeps it all together.
United were ruthless. Gary Neville explained their game plan on the Monday Night Football - to replicate the damage Ajax, Dortmund and Real Madrid had done to City out wide - and in the first half they carried it out with the precision you need at the top level.
United have a nice cushion at the top and are in good shape with important players returning from injury but I still believe it's a brave move to wade in at 8/15. City have problems to solve on and off the field and are making headlines for the wrong reasons. However, they are too good not to hit their stride at some point and go on a decent winning run. So much can change in a short time in this League.
At the moment I believe City have the better players but United are the superior unit.
The Manchester derby was the headline act on a brilliant Premier League weekend.
Here are four other things I think we learnt:
1. It's been another tough week for Arsenal but one piece of good news is that Jack Wilshere is getting right back to his best. His touch and vision were superb against West Brom and I'm really looking forward to watching him alongside Gary in the Monday Night Football studio against Reading.
2. Southampton have uncovered a real gem in Jason Puncheon. Re-discovered would actually be a more accurate word after he was left out in the cold last season following a fall out with the Executive Chairman. Southampton are still a short price to be relegated but have a real threat with Puncheon on the right and plenty of quality going forward. If Nigel Adkins can strengthen at the back in January the Saints will be ok.
3. Michu is the bargain of the season. At only two million pounds, Michael Laudrup pulled off a real coup. I'm looking forward to watching him on Super Sunday at Tottenham this weekend where he's 7/1 to score the first goal. The Spaniard took his tally for the season to 13 goals in 18 appearances with two strikes against Norwich last weekend. Dimitar Berbatov was imperious for Fulham on the Monday Night Football and runs him close when it comes to a great value signing and they are similar in the way they do things at their own pace plus both have an exquisite touch.
4. The most improved team in the Premier League are Norwich. The Canaries were a short price for relegation only a few weeks ago. They are now on the Premier League's longest unbeaten run and a great example to all the sides at the bottom on how to turn things around. Three of Chris Hughton's unheralded summer signings scored on Saturday and he deserves enormous credit.
Last weekend was sensational. Two performances stood out: Sprinter Sacre at Sandown and Flemenstar at Punchestown. The latter is now 6/1 with Sky Bet to win the Gold Cup, while Sprinter Sacre had people raving and is 2/5 to win the Champion Chase.
There is no doubt he's very special but I fear the plague of 'recency' has struck again. I wrote a few weeks ago about how people claim we currently have the greatest ever footballer (Messi), tennis player (Federer), athlete (Bolt), golfer (Woods), rugby player (McCaw) as well as a few more.
In racing it's claimed Kauto Star was the greatest jumper, AP McCoy is the best ever jockey, Frankel the finest Flat horse. Surely we can't have all these at the same time? On Saturday I read numerous pieces saying Sprinter Sacre produced one of the greatest performances of all-time. It was a brilliant display but I think it's the effects of 'recency' at work again. I don't think a 15 length defeat of Kumbeshwar puts him in that sphere - yet.
The problem Sprinter Sacre now has is that, just like Frankel in the summer, trainers will be reluctant to take him on and it doesn't look like he will have a rival or a rivalry to capture the public's imagination. People took Kauto Star to their hearts largely because of his epic battles with Denman.
Processions at Ascot next month and then the Festival will have the racing purists purring about Sprinter Sacre but won't register with a wider sporting audience.
Racing audiences are in for another treat this weekend though with a superb card at Cheltenham, which is going to throw up a few Festival clues. The pick of the bunch is Rock On Ruby v Grandouet v Zarkandar. I am firmly in the Zarkandar camp.
There have been some great team performances in this vintage sporting year but few surpass the efforts of England's cricket team in India. Their hosts were long odds on shots to win the series after thrashing Alistair Cook's side in the first Test.
However, the England captain has inspired the most sensational comeback and they stand on the verge of making history with a series win in India.
Sky Bet had England at 2/1 to finish it off in style with a win in the final Test, which started this morning, and I see no reason why they can't beat this dispirited India side once again.
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Jack M says...
I'll start worrying if City are 8 points behind in April with 6 games left ....oooops
Posted 13:53 13th December 2012
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