By Pat Johnston
When Sergio Aguero skirted around the left side of the compressed QPR defense and hammered home his extra time winner, the formal declaration of Manchester City’s first Premiership Title was declared.
Yes it was the goal that delivered and yes, without that there would be a Red celebration in Manchester and not a blue one, but this was not the day City won the title. It was the day they confirmed it.
There are 35 minutes within the grueling 38 game campaign that consummated and announced a changing of the guard in the Premier League. Five of those 35 minutes was the final minutes of the season with the entire world watching as Dzeko and Aguero delivered the heroics to ink themselves forever in Man City folklore.
We all know the Sunday story and a confirmation was necessary. But the real work was done long ago.
That leaves 30 minutes where City actually won the title and fittingly those 30 were in Old Trafford. It is common knowledge that in order to be a champion, it is necessary to beat the existing champion. And beat them they did! The QPR match was the knock out blow but the damage was done much earlier.
On October 23rd, 2011 City went to United in the familiar and customary role of underdog. They were sitting atop the Premier League and had ripped thru the opposition to date like no one had yet done in the league by scoring an inordinate amount of goals.
But tradition said today would be different. Still fresh was the United comeback from two goals down in the Charity Shield in their last encounter. Sir Alex owned his noisy neighbors and had them in his pocket.
Thru the first sixty minutes a very tense and even game was playing out but the general consensus had City in the ascendancy, but what was that to the red Mancunians? City could be on the front foot all they want but it was always United having the last laugh.
Enter the last thirty minutes- Balotelli’s second of the match in the 60th put City on top to stay. United then did something which was unconventional, they crumbled.
With the United defense deflated the vaunted City juggernaut proceeded to rip them to tatters and fire home four more goals that would establish the eight-goal difference that would deliver City the title. United did get a Darren Fletcher consolation in the 81st minute but that was just a blip in the cacophony of proclaimers of the changing of the guard.
Much drama was to follow- A see saw battle which had the sides of Manchester trading the top position. United squandering an eight point lead, City winning the home match to draw level on points with United but assume the ascendant position due to goal difference (where did those goals happen?), and finally run out the two wins needed to hoist the trophy.
No doubt there were many cogs in the wheel in the blue moon’s rise to glory, but the definitive match, which gave City the title, was on Match Day #9. Hindsight is usually perfect and this was the single most influential match to decide the Premiership title.
Had Sir Alex knew then what he knows now, I wonder if that day would have been any different. Somehow I don’t think so.
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