A Christmas present for Manchester City: 1st place

Manchester City enters Christmas as the top team in England for
the first time since 1929. Back then, City failed to stay the
course. It had to wait until 1937 to win the title and until 1968
to do so again.

This time, another slip-up would be unacceptable – City’s owners
have made an expensive overhaul of the club over three years.

But City has displayed resilience since exiting the Champions
League and losing for the first time this season with a defeat at
Chelsea. It bounced back with successive Premier League wins to
establish a two-point lead over Manchester United.

Ahead of Monday’s match at West Bromwich Albion, City has scored
53 goals in 17 league matches – more than twice the total at this
stage a year earlier.

”Last season we got a lot of uncalled-for negative publicity
because the goals weren’t flowing freely,” City defender Joleon
Lescott said. ”But this year we have the belief and the confidence
to score more goals.”

”We did need to change and there is an air of confidence about
us now,” he added. ”But it is controlled, you don’t want it to be
too arrogant. The main thing is to keep progressing and keep our
feet on the ground.”

It is two years since Roberto Mancini replaced Mark Hughes as
City manager. Having already ended the club’s 35-year trophy
drought by capturing the FA Cup in May, the focus now is firmly on
delivering the club’s first league crown in more than 40 years.

”We need to win away games,” Mancini said. ”We have only one
point from our last two.”

Stumbling at West Brom could allow United to go top with a win
over Wigan on Monday. The champions are maintaining the pressure on
City despite a series of setbacks – Champions League elimination
and a humiliating 6-1 loss against its neighbor.

”We have shown the resilience and determination,” Alex
Ferguson said Friday. ”That says a lot about the character of the
team. We lose games in normal seasons.”

”This season we have lost games that have been dramatic and a
bit more emphatic in the sense of the impact it had on our chances
of winning trophies,” he added. ”These were bad results for us
but the character of the team has rescued us each time.”

The Manchester teams ended the week further ahead of their title
rivals after Tottenham drew 1-1 with Chelsea in a game between
third- and fourth-place clubs.

”At this point in time everyone thinks it is going to be a
one-two for the city (of Manchester),” Ferguson said. ”But things
change. … Lose a game in this league and all the rest get a
pickup and start chasing harder.”