After surrendering an eight point lead to rivals City last season, has Sir Alex learnt his lesson? They currently sit top of the Premier League four points better off than Mancini’s men, with a game in hand.
Sergio Aguero’s stoppage time winner against QPR ruined the season for the Red side of Manchester and stopped Ferguson winning his fifth title in as many years.
The Old Trafford side have comeback better and stronger this year and are two points better off than they were at this stage last year.
City, meanwhile, are two points less, bridging a four point gap between the Lancashire clubs.
This year, Fergie will make sure, more than ever, his side don’t fall at the last hurdle. The fashion they lost the title will have hurt him but he won’t be foolish enough to make the same mistake twice.
Losing games in the final month to strugglers Blackburn, Wigan and Man City were particular damaging, especially dropping two points in a 4-4 draw against Everton, where they were winning 4-2 at one point in the game.
In the concluding months of the season, Fergie will hammer into his players the importance of maintaining leads. With strength in depth in his squad, his weakest strength is his defence and luck will have to be on his side with injuries if he is to secure the clubs 20th league title.
The obvious difference to last years squad is front man Robin Van Persie, a signing some would call a bargain, for the nominal fee of £24million. At times in the season, the 28 year old has carried the team with 18 league goals. He is a big game player and has scored against rivals Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City.
The fact United top scorer at this stage last season was Wayne Rooney with 13 goals shows Van Persie’s importance and contribution to the team.
Another summer signing who has strengthened the ranks, although he’s been out for two months with a knee injury, is Shinji Kagawa. The man who starred in Borussia Dortmund’s consecutive league wins looks like a good creative spark to United’s midfield.
Another reason City won’t catch United is Balotelli’s exit. Although the Italian was more trouble than he’s worth, his departure could leave a hole in City’s title challenge as he scored vital goals in the final months last season. The fact he may not be replaced maybe a decision Mancini could live to regret.
The season finale last year was one that couldn’t be beaten and with United a team generally stronger in the second half of the season, it appears Ferguson won’t be beaten in their attempts to regain the title.