United hit the front as City mull Tevez return

London: Manchester United got their noses in front in the two-horse race Premier League title race on Sunday and were installed as the odds-on favourites to keep the trophy in the red half of town.

The champions` 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City`s 1-0 defeat at Swansea City left United one point ahead with 10 matches left, and London bookmaker William Hill made United 8/13 favourites to win the title with City drifting out to 6/5.

"United haven`t been odds-on for the title since September, but as ever seem to be making their move at just the right time," said Hill`s spokesman Graham Sharpe.

Both teams clearly have the resources to finish as England`s top club, but while United can call on the experience of winning 12 titles since 1993 and 19 in total, City, who won the last of their two titles in 1968, have a joker in their pack.

Now could be the time for Mancini to gamble by unleashing Carlos Tevez to swing the title City`s way for the first time in 44 years.

Tevez, whose last league appearance was as a late substitute against Fulham in September before his spectacular fall-out with the club, knows what it takes to collect Premier League titles having won two at United in 2008 and 2009.

Since making up with Mancini, he has played in two reserve matches and scored one goal, and Mancini knows City need to start finding the net again.

Tevez might be rusty, lacking match fitness and never be totally welcomed back into the hearts of the City faithful, but he knows where the goal is.

This time last year he was on his way to finishing the season as joint-top scorer in the Premier League and the least he owes the City fans is goals in a run-in which includes next week`s home match against Chelsea, a visit to resurgent Arsenal and tricky games against Sunderland and Newcastle as well as the visit of United on April 30.

Large Chunk

While Tevez has missed a large chunk of the season on his unauthorised trip back home in Argentina, his old United team mate Wayne Rooney has been finding the net regularly, taking his total to 26 for the season with both goals against West Brom.

"We are plugging away, we have to keep going and keep picking up the points to get over the line," Rooney told reporters.

"We know what we have to do and hopefully it will be enough. We are in a good position now and hopefully we can maintain our lead."

United`s run-in appears to be easier with six of their next seven games against clubs currently in the bottom seven, Wolverhampton Wanderers (19th), Fulham (10th), Blackburn Rovers (16th), Queens Park Rangers (18th), Wigan Athletic (20th) and Aston Villa (15th).

Apart from the match at City, United also have to play Everton, Swansea City and Sunderland and as their string of titles proves, they know how to handle the pressure.

Mancini, though, remained far from downbeat following Sunday`s loss.

"There are still 10 games to play," he said. "And anything can happen."

The one thing everyone can bet on, in a season in which City beat United 6-1 at Old Trafford and United overwhelmed Arsenal 8-2, is that this race is far from over.

Bureau Report