Manchester United won 3-1 at Arsenal yesterday, and that result, manager Jose Mourinho’s first away win over a top six side in three years, should have been sweet, not bittersweet. The bitter component comes via Paul Pogba, who committed a red card and now sees himself banned for the Manchester Derby next weekend, plus the next two league matches after that.
United are now five points behind table toppers Manchester City, who hold a game in hand. City, who host a pretty bad West Ham side today, could be eight points clear of United and 11 points clear of Chelsea within a couple of hours.
That means next Sunday could be the match that ultimately decides the league title, and it’s one that has now been drastically changed with the absence of Pogba. The French midfielder made the extremely classless move of saying that he hopes some key City players get hurt, so that United can catch up.
On a moral level that’s an awful thing to say, and pointing this out is primary.
On a competitive level, it concedes a wide gap and thus ultimate defeat essentially. What should have been a wonderful win on Saturday was marred by Paul Pogba making a studs up challenge on Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin and thus getting himself removed from the season’s biggest game.
While that was a story in itself, the horrifying comments made by Pogba overshadow the red card/match ban development.
When United’s most important player, the one who completely alters the way that Mourinho approaches a game, implicitly admits his side is that inferior to the league leaders, what does that tell you about the big rivalry match coming up?
Without Paul Pogba, will Mourinho even bother press forward and attack much?
Will the Portugese perform the maneuver he is synonymous with “parking the bus” and settle for a draw?
Make no mistake, a City win next Sunday ends the Premier League title hopes for United. A draw would put the Red Devils league title aspirations on life support. Chelsea, the defending champions, have the talent to compete for the title, but they have had an up and down season, and they’re currently further behind than United.
The rest of the top six, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, are all out of it.
It’s very possible that Manchester City, off to the greatest start in Premier League history, could have the title wrapped up by Christmas.
It’s looking all the more likely that it’ll be a Joyous Noel for the blue side of Manchester.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.
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