Man Utd set sights on biggest Premier League triumph ever

Feb 11, 2013

Premier League talking points, from complacent Man City to the brilliant Gareth Bale

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WAS THIS the weekend that first and last place in the Premier League were decided? Manchester United's victory over Everton left them with a 12-point lead at the top and only 12 games to go. At the bottom, QPR are now seven points from safety after their defeat.

Elswehere, Gareth Bale produced another masterclass and Frank Lampard helped Chelsea to a much-needed win. Aston Villa finally managed a victory on a weekend when their relegation rivals all lost - and Norwich and Fulham conspired to produce one of the dullest games of the season.

This weekend's results have surely handed United the title, so Alex Ferguson might need to find extra motivation for his side. With United unbeaten in three months in the league - and City and Chelsea in disarray - he could set his sights on surpassing the record set by his team in the 1999-2000 season, when they won the title by a mammoth 18 points. United are 12 points clear and will expect to beat City at Old Trafford in April. If they can maintain their form it could be a record-breaking season for Fergie.

After a shocking defeat against Southampton all but ended Manchester City's title hopes, Roberto Mancini bore a striking resemblance to Private Eye's fictional football manager, "the ashen-faced Ron Knee". The clearly livid Italian tore into his players for their insipid display and suggested they needed to show some balls. "If they play like this, they should stay at home," he ranted. Alan Hansen in the Daily Telegraph said there had been an air of complacency about City all season, and Mancini's main priority must now be to hold on to second place.

The weekly tributes to Frank Lampard flooded in again on Saturday after the veteran scored his 12th goal of the season in the Blues' 4-1 over Wigan. He has now scored ten in his last 14 matches for club and country and last week it was reported that Chelsea had changed their mind about renewing his contract at the end of the season and were in talks with the 34-year-old about a one-year extension. They would do well to keep him, as his goal, Chelsea's third, saved the Blues from an anxious finale. "For all their options, Chelsea were still reliant on the familiar one of Lampard to make the game safe with four minutes remaining," notes The Times.

Spurs fans should enjoy the talents of Gareth Bale while they can. The winger scored both goals and showed the kinds of skills that only those at the pinnacle of the game possess as he single-handedly took Newcastle apart on Saturday. His first goal was a vicious, swerving free-kick that Cristiano Ronaldo would have been pleased with. But the way Bale controlled the ball while running at full pelt on his way to the second goal was exceptional. David Hytner in The Guardian says that Bale must be allowed to play in the middle of the pitch with the rest of the team built around him. No wonder Real Madrid are said to value him at more than £50m.

If Gareth Bale is worth £50m then what about Michu? The Swansea ace was back on target on Saturday, scoring twice and setting up another against hapless QPR, who now look doomed to the drop. Michu may have only cost £2m when Swansea pinched him from Rayo Vallecano in the summer, but now he looks like a player worth at least £20m. Swansea and QPR were both promoted in 2011, and it is the Welsh side who have prospered, they are now 20 points clear of the Londoners, who are seven points from safety with a dozen games to go, their chances of survival about as good as City's of winning the title.

Arsenal produced another Jekyll-and-Hyde performance as they overcame Sunderland, just, at the Emirates. Santi Cazorla's ninth goal of the season put them in front and the Gunners then held on, despite having Carl Jenkinson sent off after an hour. The win lifts them to fifth in the table above Everton and four points behind Spurs. "There were moments of brilliance at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, but they were balanced by frailty and, by the end, they were clawing, clinging and hanging on," said The Times.

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