We not only dismantled title rivals Chelsea to the turn of three goals to their solitary one but local rivals and fellow title candidates City also dropped points, after letting a two goal lead go to waste at Craven Cottage, leaving us able to pull clear at the top and look ahead to the Carling Cup game against Leeds with few worries.
What a great deal of people did not realise when questioning if the blue side of Manchester could keep pace in the title race was the fact that not only have our manager, staff and players been there and done it in the most demanding league in the world, but they also have the vital experience of playing a champions league tie midweek and being able to come back to the club and put in the performance on the weekend and win.
It may be one thing to win the Italian League as a manager and backroom staff, where even if players have been away on international duty, or the club has played a midweek tie in Europe, you will most likely only be playing a team who, when in comparison with the premier league, would finish in the bottom half of the table at best, and customarily role over for the big teams like Inter or Milan. In England this is not the case, and games are of a tougher standard. Fulham were not prepared to hand three points to city, and even when two goals down, looked for a way back into the game, and were handed it through sloppiness and a lack of concentration by Manchester City.
Whilst it may well have been difficult for City to play such a tough game against Napoli in midweek and then have a premier league game a couple of days later, they should still be disappointed at dropping vital points, especially after being goals up. The difference between the two Manchester clubs is the fact that United had an away tie in Lisbon, whereas City were at home to Napoli, yet we were the ones who looked sharper, less fatigued and did not let our concentration waver, even when 3 – 0 up at half time. That is what makes champions – not to mention the fact we had to face Chelsea, who with no disrespect to Fulham are one of the very top clubs in the league, with multiple players injured and still managed to get a brilliant victory.
The problems that Chelsea are facing this season are far more complex than having to deal with the after effects of playing in Europe, and the fact they are going through a period of transition with a very young manager will be something that may well cause them to just fall short of the title chase this season. City are still a very strong squad full of quality, and will push all the way, yet once the latter stages of the Champions league begin – should City make it out of a tough group – more points could well be dropped as focus and energy levels waver.
For us, that should not be a problem, as we have proved time and time again, we have the ability to get to the final stages of all competitions and still manage to grind out the results when we need to. The fact that we are winning and with style and no shortage of goals is something to savour, but our fans can rest assured that when we need to win 1 – 0 away from home on a cold northern night after a European tie, we can do that – the question is can City?