With the Barclays Premier League season at an end, we look at how the title race between Manchester City and Manchester United unfolded month by month.
Both City and United made superb starts to the campaign, each winning all of their first three matches and scoring a hatful of goals. Although the Blues impressively routed Tottenham 5-1 at White Hart Lane, the Red Devils’ stunning 8-2 home victory over Arsenal the same day ensured it was they who led the table at the end of August on goal difference.
The pair were still neck-and-neck as the first full month of the season came to a close, City having dropped two points at Fulham and United then doing likewise at Stoke to leave them on 16 apiece. The Red Devils maintained the number one spot courtesy of their superior goal difference, which had been boosted by a 5-0 win at Bolton.
United’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool allowed City to move to the top of the table and Roberto Mancini’s men then made a major statement about their title ambitions by thrashing their neighbours 6-1 at Old Trafford, opening up a five-point lead at the summit.
Both sides took seven points from three league games during November as City preserved their healthy cushion over Alex Ferguson’s side.
City suffered their first league defeat of the campaign when they went down 2-1 at Chelsea and they also drew at West Brom, allowing United to draw level on points with them. But a shock 3-2 home defeat to Blackburn for Ferguson’s side on New Year’s Eve meant Mancini’s men finished 2011 still top on goal difference and with a game in hand.
City blew the chance to put daylight between themselves and United on January 1, losing 1-0 at Sunderland, but soon had a three-point lead as they saw off Liverpool a day before the Red Devils were beaten by Newcastle. Defeat for Mancini’s side at Everton then led to the Manchester pair being back level on points – City still ahead on goal difference – at the end of the month.
United came back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Chelsea in early February, but it was the only two points dropped by either Manchester team during the month, meaning City finished it two points clear.
While United took maximum points from four league matches in March, City slipped up in three of their five – losing 1-0 at Swansea and being held 1-1 at Stoke and 3-3 at home by Sunderland – to hand the advantage to Ferguson’s team, who were left sitting two points clear with a game in hand on March 31.
United duly moved five points ahead on April 2 with victory at Blackburn and the following Sunday, a 2-0 win over QPR coupled with City’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal seemed to confirm the title race was over. But the Red Devils managed to squander their eight-point advantage thanks to a surprise 1-0 loss at Wigan, a dramatic 4-4 home draw with Everton and then the derby at the Etihad Stadium, which the hosts won 1-0 to move them back above United – level on points but with a significantly better goal difference – with two games to go.
City appeared to have overcome the toughest hurdle left in their path as they won 2-0 at Champions League challengers Newcastle with a Yaya Toure brace. United beat Swansea to take it to the final day, and the Red Devils looked to have won it as they beat Sunderland 1-0 and City remarkably trailed 2-1 at home to QPR going into injury time. However, substitute Edin Dzeko drew the Blues level and then Sergio Aguero struck an unbelievable winner to seal City’s first title for 44 years.