Sunday, April 8, 2012

Money Time 2011 2012: Division One Arsenal Manchester City and Manchester United Queens Park Rangers


   Roberto Mancini concedes Manchester City's title hopes could be over by Sunday night. The long-time Premier League leaders have fallen five points behind their rivals Manchester United with just seven games remaining following a series of costly results in March. City could even be trailing by eight points by the time they kick off in their next match at Arsenal on Sunday if United beat Queens Park Rangers earlier in the day. Should that happen, and City then lose at the Emirates Stadium, Mancini would accept the race was over. "If we lose against Arsenal and they beat QPR – yes," said Mancini, when asked if that would be the case. But the Italian insists he is not thinking that way as he prepares for the crucial trip to north London. ity, who led the table by two points at the start of last month, have come unstuck in recent weeks after a defeat at Swansea and draws against Stoke and Sunderland. Mancini said: "I think always positive, I can't think this. Against Sunderland we didn't play very well, for me we were so flat in the first half. But we shot 25 times on goal, we had 65% ball possession. Sunderland shot three times at goal and scored three goals. "We did some mistakes defensively but we were unlucky. But now we can say nothing, we can't think about Sunderland. We should think positive for the next seven games. "I think it may be more difficult but it is my opinion that this championship is not finished." Mancini hopes supporters will keep faith and takes encouragement from the difficulties United have had in securing victories in recent games against Fulham and Blackburn. He expects his own team to beat United when they meet in their much-hyped derby at the Etihad Stadium on 30 April and believes they can still drop points elsewhere. He said: "Maybe, in this moment, there is someone that maybe doesn't believe because it is difficult, but we believe always. Also we should play a derby – the derby will be three points, and I think in six games they can lose other points."

Arsène Wenger believes Manchester United are poised to win the Premier League title as they are better equipped than their their neighbours City to cope with what he calls the "money time". The Arsenal manager opted for diplomacy when he described United as "not absolutely irresistible" but he has been impressed in recent weeks by their composure and knowhow when it has mattered the most. Wenger is in the position to dent City's hopes, which have suffered as they have taken five points from an available 12, when they visit the Emirates Stadium on Sunday and he suggested that Roberto Mancini's team could live to rue their lack of title-chasing instinct. "I believe this year the title at Man United, if they make it, is really down to experience," Wenger said. "What I mean by that is that on Monday night against Blackburn, when Giggs came on [in the 63rd minute], you thought: 'They can only win it now because they know how to deal with the money time.' That means the last 15 minutes in football when it is 0-0. Don't make a mistake. They have that security at the back. They have won so many titles because they are not nervous. "Basically for Man City, it is away from home because they have been outstanding at home. It is away from home they have lost a little bit. Man United is surprisingly there in a comfortable position. No one expected them to be. They didn't look absolutely irresistible this year and you could see that again at Blackburn. But they managed to win the game ." Wenger's focus is on his team's attempt to iron out the blip in their recent league form that was the defeat at Queens Park Rangers last Saturday but he did give thought to the question about Mancini's future were he to end the season without silverware, insisting it would be ridiculous for the Italian to be dismissed. "Yes, it would be," Wenger said, "because he is under contract. He has done a good job. He knows the squad ... although I'm not responsible for City's politics. They have to deal with their own problems and I deal with mine." One of those is the continued uncertainty about the prospect of Jack Wilshere making a comeback this season from his long-term ankle injury. Wenger said that the midfielder had to return by the end of the month if he wanted to prove his fitness for Euro 2012 with England. "We try to keep the hope alive for him and without taking too many risks," Wenger said. "That means we adapt day-to-day to manage him, to improve his physical state and get him fit as quickly as we can without taking too big a risk. That means when he has pain, we stop him. "To go to a big competition without having played at all is impossible. In the next four or five weeks we will know more and the next three weeks will be decisive. By the end of April you would think a player who wants to play in June … at the end of April, they will have to be competitive. The next three weeks will decide ."

Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed Manchester United's ability to score vital late goals as a "thread" running through the club's domination of the Premier League. On Monday evening Blackburn Rovers were defeated by two strikes in the last 10 minutes, from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. A Ryan Giggs 89th-minute winner at Norwich City in a 2-1 win and the comeback from three down at Chelsea to claim a draw earlier in the year also echoed late shows by Ferguson's teams in previous title-winning seasons. Ferguson said: "Over the years we've had these moments when we've scored late goals. You go back to '93 and Sheffield Wednesday, two goals in the last minutes [to win 2-1 on the way to their first Premier League title]. It's part of the history that we don't give in, we are capable of scoring late goals. And it's not an accident because there's a thread that relates to the club that way. It's been obvious for many, many years. You could point to the recovery at Chelsea and the Norwich game, or you could point to Monday night because with nine minutes to go it's 0-0. "But they don't give in. They kept their intensity and concentration really well and that was the plus point on Monday night." Ferguson highlighted Valencia and David de Gea for their performances in this crucial period. "Although we had all that retention of the ball, De Gea has had three fantastic saves. He has kept us in the game. And his form and his maturity is going to be key to us. He's been fantastic. His confidence is high. Every game he is getting better. "As far as Valencia's form – what can I say? He's been unbelievable since he's come back. Absolutely brilliant. If you have got players coming to form at this time of the season then it's bonus points. With players back, there's some freshness in the team at the moment so hopefully we can keep it going." Nani is available after recovering from an ankle injury and the Scot said he may rotate his squad to avoid fatigue. If United defeat Queens Park Rangers on Sunday afternoon then Manchester City will be eight points behind when they kick off at Arsenal. "Well, Arsenal is a difficult place to go to," Ferguson said. "Even when they're not playing well it's always a difficult ground. If we can win our game on Sunday what it means to us is that we are still five points clear if City win and we're only one game less. We're down to six left. All you have to do is cut away the games." Ferguson denied Valencia needs an operation to remove a plate in his ankle in the close season. "I don't know where that story has come from. It's never been on the agenda or discussed. He has a plate in there and at the moment it stays there." After Roberto Mancini, the City manager, admitted he could have punched Mario Balotelli, Ferguson said he shared his exasperation and sometimes he felt like he could "strangle" players.




Manchester United 
Queens Park Rangers

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Arsenal Manchester City
 
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