It was supposed to be a pretty normal Sunday in the Barclays Premier League with leaders Manchester City and closest rivals United facing relatively easy oppositions in the form of Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion.
With the Manchester clubs facing off in a derby on April 30th, the eight games in between was expected to be a mere formality. However Ferguson had predicted that both teams would drop points before the derby clash and he was proved right today as Manchester City, somewhat surprisingly, stumbled at Swansea while United comfortably took 3 points against West Brom to leapfrog their neighbors on to the top of the table.
United started the day in second place on 64 points, two adrift of City and 11 ahead of third placed Tottenham. West Bromwich Albion had won their last three matches, including a 1-0 victory over Chelsea and it was them who started the aggressive side with Keith Andrews coming close. Andrews had another chance a few minutes later but De Gea did well to keep out the low deflected freekick.
For United though, in the absence of Nani, Young was proving to be the most menacing player. His corner almost set up Welbeck before he almost cut through the Baggies’ defence after Welbeck had set him up.
The first goal came ten minutes before the break. After a long sustained play of possession, Hernandez cut in from a wide area and took the shot on with his left foot. The shot was intercepted by Rooney, who calmly slotted it past Foster who was already committed to the first shot. United ended the half strongly as Jones put the ball in the side netting while Welbeck just about managed to not reach Evra’s pull back after a threatening move.
The news from the Liberty Stadium was that Swansea had a penalty saved as both teams went into the break goalless.
Back at Old Trafford, the second half saw Peter Odemwingie’s penalty appeals turned down in the 50th minute after Evra appeared to trip him and Manchester United almost made them pay on the counter-attack as Hernandez’ thundering shot rattled the crossbar. The flurry of chances continued as Rooney’s acrobatic shot was easily pouched by Foster as was Hernandez’ cute flick before Welbeck dragged his left footed shot wide.
West Bromwich’s hopes of making a comeback suddenly diminished when Olsson, earlier booked for a foul on Rooney, brought down Hernandez to earn his second yellow card. United pushed on and Evra was denied a penalty when his shot struck Tamas’ arm but United would have their penalty soon.
Dominating possession for long periods of time, Young found himself some space on the left of the penalty area before he was clumsily brought down by Andrews. Rooney stepped in and calmly struck his 20th goal of the season.
A few minutes later, there was a big cheer around Old Trafford as news broke in that Swansea had taken the lead.
West Brom had the chance to pull one back as substitute Shane Long smashed a shot towards De Gea’s near post. But the Spaniard, coming off a good run of games, confidently punched the ball out. Young, had a chance to extend United’s lead but he completely misread Hernandez’ wonderful cross from the right while the Mexican himself scooped a shot high into the stands from close range.
Meanwhile in Wales, City had the ball in the back of the net but it was called off-side. Swansea nervously clung on to the lead in the final minutes as the whistle blew for full-time and City knew they had been overhauled.
After a massive twist of fate, United now lead the League by a point with 10 games remaining. They could as well stretch this lead to four points before City next step on to the field as they face a trip to the Molineux Stadium next weekend while City have a tough test in hand as they welcome Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium next Wednesday.
The Title Race has just begun!