As Manchester City crashed out of the Champions League midweek and Chelsea linger over the brink of their own European campaign, it is interesting to consider the impact these exits may have in the domestic fight.
Manchester City have been in the firing line for a lot of criticism so far this season but remain the only unbeaten team in the league and find themselves in sizzling hot form, winning six out of their last seven league games. A favorable result in the Signal Iduna Park looks difficult and even if City do land in the Europa League, they will treat it as a secondary objective, despite what noise they make on the contrary.
All in all, this early exit serves only to strengthen their bid for a second consecutive league title. Interestingly enough though, the English Premier League odds from bookmakers such as Paddy Power have priced the two Manchester sides at 13/10, and Chelsea at 5/1, to finish top of the league.
Although at the moment with an extensive break from European approaching over the horizon, surely when the knock-out rounds of the Champions League come calling and Ferguson begins to rest and rotate stars more regularly for those games that it will to some extent weaken United’s title pursuit.
Chelsea remain somewhat of a beast in the dark at the moment as we await to see how they start life under Rafael Benitez but the same can be said of them. Chelsea’s European elimination also isn’t certain yet and if events drop in their favour in Donetsk, there is the possibility of a continued defense of their Champions League crown, but an exit from Europe will only bolster their hunt to be champions of England.
The same can be said of the FA Cup. United will surely look upon this as practically a chore when the number of games in the final third of the season begin to mount. Yet, most bookmakers have priced the two Manchester sides again at an identical price. City’s motivation to win the FA Cup, although it may merely be a literal consolation prize for City fans, will be more driven than United’s, with Ferguson looking upon the FA Cup as an unwanted distraction when the big dogs of Europe come thick and fast. It is also worth noting that Manchester United haven’t won the FA Cup since the 2003-04 season, a clear indication of Ferguson’s perception of the trophy being secondary.
Both City and United had little in the way of European distraction beyond Christmas last season as neither looked too enamored with life in the Europa League. The bookies haven’t seen City’s exit as a possible factor for the title race outcome and as a result haven’t re-priced their odds but come the end of the season it may well be one of the most defining factors of the domestic campaign in Manchester City’s favor.