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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Premier League title race: our experts see Manchester City and United in two-horse race

JB: Everyone will think it’s Andre Villas-Boas given his age and lack of experience and he is undoubtedly under severe pressure, but the demands on Roberto Mancini are great also. City are out in front – can they sustain it? Are the squad united? Will they be able to cope?

AS: On the evidence so far, it would appear to be Andre Villas-Boas. Already he has reacted spikily to criticism from the media. As the least experienced he is treading new ground all the time, while knowing that he must produce results.

MO: Andre Villas-Boas has proved himself to be prickly and sensitive to criticism, so it will be interesting to see how he copes in a tense run-in. Roberto Mancini is safe at Manchester City, but that might change if they suffer a loss of form that costs them the title.

3. Which squad is best equipped to cope as the season goes on?

JB: It may come down to United’s mental resilience – and whether Sir Alex Ferguson can coax another title challenge out of them. It’s still City’s title to lose as they have the outstanding squad. Will they come to rue the loss of Carlos Tévez?

AS: Without question it is Manchester City. They have been fortunate so far not to suffer many injuries, but even if they do the squad is big enough and good enough to cope. As for team spirit, that seems to be improving all the time.

MO: Manchester City have the strongest squad, but United and Chelsea possess the experience and knowledge required to win a title. Experience only counts for so much, though, and the greater depth of quality at the Etihad is likely to be the key factor.

4. Which player do you think will have the biggest impact on the title battle?

JB: Wayne Rooney. If he can recapture his form then he is capable of propelling Manchester United to the top of the pile. If not then United will struggle and Manchester City should be champions. They have a better balanced side, more depth and more match-winners.

AS: For his consistency of performance, it might be David Silva. Many opponents have tried and failed to keep this fantastic little playmaker quiet.

MO: He will not play again this season, but Nemanja Vidic could be the man who decides the title. Without him, United’s defence is nowhere near as strong and the loss of Vidic could ultimately be the factor that ensures the title is heading for east Manchester.

Who will win?

JB: Manchester United

AS: Manchester City

MO: Manchester City

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