Roberto Mancini's suggestion that Man City need to win “11 or 12” of their remaining 13 fixtures to stand a chance of winning the Premier League may not be as impossible a task as it initially appears.
City's recent 2-2 draw with Liverpool leaves the reigning champions nine points adrift of rivals Man United and while Mancini admitted it would be a tricky task to reel in their neighbours, the Italian insisted the race is not yet over.
“If we don't win all, then we probably need to win 11 or 12 if we are to have a chance,” he said. “But the championship is not over, absolutely not, because of last season and also what happened two years ago.”
Mancini would be the first to admit that any sort of turnaround would depend on United dropping points between now and when the two sides meet at the beginning of April, as much as it rests on his City side chalking up the required victories. A strong run, though, has seen clubs sometimes end the season with winners medals, as these examples show.
Man United's overhaul of Newcastle in the 1995/96 season will forever linger in the memory as one of the greatest ever recoveries in the Premier League era. Trailing 12 points to Newcastle at the end of January, United ended the month with victory over West Ham to kick start a run of 13 victories from 15 matches to turn the tables on the Magpies. From January until the end of the season United dropped just five points, three of which came when the Red Devils topped the league, having opened up a lead of their own. United's 13 triumphs included wins in pivotal clashes against Newcastle, Arsenal, Man City and Leeds.
Mancini's assertion that 12 victories will place City within the title mix come could be an overstatement as Arsenal proved in the 1997/98 season. Following a 1-0 victory over Chelsea at the end of February, Man United looked to have all but sealed their fifth Premier League title, boasting a 12-point lead over the Gunners. However, Arsenal proceeded to win 10 consecutive matches, including the famous 1-0 victory at Old Trafford to wipe out the mammoth deficit. During that same period, Fergie's side lost twice (against Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal) and draw three times (with West Ham, Liverpool, Newcastle), leaving Arsenal to wrap up the title with two games to spare.
This would be the season of Fergie's revenge as his Man United side cut down Arsenal's eight-point lead with nine matches remaining. That season United went on an impressive 18-match unbeaten streak, going back to the turn of the year, with the Red Devils dropping just six points on the incredible stretch. Just as it was in the 1997/98 campaign, the turning point came when United faced Arsenal, this time at Highbury in April, with the 2-2 draw marking a shift in the destination of the Premier League title.
Sometimes an immaculate run can't guarantee title success, as Liverpool found out in the 2008/09 campaign, who despite winning 10 of their final 11 matches, still managed to finish four points behind Man United. Their impressive form saw the Reds claim 31 from 33 points available, but ultimately they were punished for earlier failures, including a dismal run in January where Rafa Benitez's side picked up just three points from a possible nine. At the turn of the year Man United lingered in fourth spot, eight points off their north west rivals with three games in hand, and while Liverpool finished the season strongly, they were simply keeping pace with a United side that won 19 of their remaining 22 fixtures.
If there is one positive Roberto Mancini can point towards, it's his experience at being in a chasing position. City's memorable title triumph last season was the culmination of six extraordinary matches that saw Man United's squander an eight-point lead. City ended the season strongly, winning their remaining six fixtures, including a decisive victory over United in April, while their neighbours lost twice and drew once in the same period. Mancini's call for 12 victories until the end of the season may seem like a hard task, but with a return fixture to Man United still to come, the title race far from over...
Is the Premier League title race over? Can Man City overhaul the nine point gap at the top?