Never-say-die United make title point to City
Manchester: Manchester United`s comeback at Chelsea was not just a point saved but a point made to Manchester City that the champions have the spirit to scrap until the last second of the title race.
On paper it was a weekend where City broke two points clear at the top after a comfortable 3-0 win over Fulham while their main rivals lost ground with a 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge - but beneath the surface there was a more significant message.
"That point could win us the Premier League," United striker Wayne Rooney told British media after he scored two penalties to help his side claw back from three goals down on Sunday.
Time and again United have shown a never-say-die attitude to come from behind and snatch a point or three on the way to bagging a record 19 top-flight titles.
At Blackpool last season they came from two goals down to win 3-2, a result manager Alex Ferguson said had a "big impact" on the title, while the 2009 crown owed much to a 1-0 win at Stoke City eked out by players suffering from jet lag.
In recent years matches against Chelsea have gone a long way to deciding the championship and while Andre Villas-Boas`s side are seemingly out of the running this time, Sunday`s result could be no less significant come May.
City will not only have noted the manner of the comeback but also the top notch saves United`s often shaky keeper David de Gea pulled off in stoppage time.
The Spaniard has faced much criticism after a string of blunders but when it counted he pulled off two stunning stops -- one from a Juan Mata free kick that was heading for the top corner and another from debutant Gary Cahill.
"He`s played his part, no question about that," Ferguson told the club`s website (www.manutd.com). "He`s done a great job.
"I`m pleased because we see the talent in the boy. We`re going to trust that talent. Eventually in three or four years` time we`re going to see all that.
"At the moment, yes, he`s made one or two mistakes, the introduction to English football has been different for him. It`s not what he`s used to in Spain."
If City are in any way worried about United`s knack of fighting back, though, they will take comfort from the fact their neighbours are still showing frailties at the back when Roberto Mancini`s men can boast the best defence in the league.
The leaders have conceded just 19 goals in 24 games while they have also scored four more than Ferguson`s men to give City a goal difference advantage of nine, which could prove as significant at the end of the season as United`s draw at Chelsea.
Another major positive for City, looking for their first league title since 1968, is the fixture list which throws up just one match against a team in the top half of the table between now and March 19.
In that period United host bitter rivals Liverpool and travel to third-placed Tottenham Hotspur in what looks a much trickier run of games.
Not that Mancini wanted to buy into that notion.
"All the remaining games are difficult," said the Italian. "You are playing against top squads. Some of them are at the bottom and are fighting relegation so there are no easy games."