Manchester City - Worst title defence since Blackburn Rovers?

Should Manchester City be embarrassed at the way their title hopes have disintegrated?

1995-96 is not a year Manchester City fans will care much for. The club were relegated on goal difference on the final day, methodology which saw them win the league last season.

The year also saw a quite pathetic Premier League title defence from reigning champions Blackburn Rovers.

After edging out United by a single point a year earlier, Rovers were simply not the same force the following campaign, finishing in seventh place.

By time May 1996 arrived, they finished 21 points behind league champions Manchester United and were never a factor in the title race with Newcastle pushing closest.

If the current Premier League season were to end tomorrow, Manchester City's title defence would equal the worst in the Premier League since Blackburn, just one point away from such an ignominy.

At 15 points behind Manchester United, the reigning champions are fast becoming a speck in the Red Devils' rear view mirrors.

The bad news for City is that United are unlikely to relent either, spurred on by memories of last season's dramatic collapse.

Roberto Mancini's men may wonder how it got quite this bad, but they may want to consider just quite how they are so far behind. After all they have lost just two games of the last 10 in the Premier League.

Yet the damage was done early on, with the Manchester derby at the Etihad a huge swing for United. Sir Alex Ferguson's men have gone better than City over the last 10, winning nine of their last 10 games, only dropping points when they conceded a last minute equaliser away to Tottenham.

It will not be fact that United are likely to retain the trophy which will haunt City or Roberto Mancini, but the manner of the challenge put to them.

Preceded by their pitiful Champions League efforts - two points from six games, the worst ever from an English side - City's title defence is asking serious questions.

The players are busy talking about not giving up, and hoping United will slip up under pressure, but right now the champions are not applying any of that pressure.

They were unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty which would have drawn the game away to Everton, but City were still unable to make more of the advantage they were given when Steven Pienaar was sent off, and eventually went down 2-0.

Mancini will be determined to try and close the gap at the top, because simply put 15 points is not good enough.

The most United have ever lost the title they were defending by under Sir Alex is also 15 points, in 2003-04 when they finished behind Arsenal's unbeaten 'Invincibles'. City must not do worse than this and take a crown United had no pleasure in, being the worst defending champions since Blackburn.

If Mancini and Manchester City want an initial challenge to aim for, firstly it should be not to end up with the gap above 15 points, but secondly to try and close it to single figures.

Sadly for City fans that's the situation. It isn't if United will win the title, but by how much.

Do any City fans hold out any belief the title can be won? Will the gap of 15 points increase?

image: © pigpilot

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