8 May ~ It's been a curious title race. Rather than the usual sprint from the frontrunners, it's been more like a three-legged sports day fumble – the victors this term are unlikely to rate highly in the pantheon of Championship winners. So can Chelsea's cataclysmic visit to Old Trafford be regarded as anything more than the last throes of two bald men fighting over a comb or can something more significant be gleaned from Sky's Super Sunday extravaganza?
Chelsea have had an odd season. The press they've received has been humiliating at times – from the firing of Ray Wilkins last autumn (and consequent disastrous form) to the rash purchase of Fernando Torres in January, they struggled to live up to the mantel of champions. Their exit from Europe was a bitter pill to swallow but seemingly from nowhere they have started knocking over teams with the kind of swagger that saw them home last season.
Meanwhile, Man Utd have struggled to get out of second gear. Mid-table away form has contrasted sharply with invincibility at home where Dimitar Berbatov and Nani have gorged themselves on fearful opposition. Yet their surprise qualification for the Champions League final on Wednesday means that at the very least they can claim to be the best of the rest – no mean feat in an era so dominated by one club.
Off the pitch the green and gold protest campaign of last season has petered out. If anything the Glazers seem emboldened by surviving the latest threat. The paying off of a tranche of debt apparently (although not conclusively proven to be) with their own money has stilled the silent majority. To that end they have tacked an extra £1 a game on to the cost of a ticket next season. No doubt the same majority will continue to pay through the nose – a boycott has been conclusively proved to be a non-starter.
Overriding all these considerations, however, is the prospect of United's 19th league title and with it the culmination of their manager's ambition to knock rivals Liverpool "off their fucking perch". United's failure, on the other hand, would cap a fantastic season for Liverpool in which they finally rid themselves of hated owners and welcomed the return of a long-lost hero. Similarly, Manchester City fans could be celebrating – more especially if they break their 35-year trophy hoodoo and that banner had to come down.
A lot more than a trophy rides on Sunday. Despite a season where United have gone so close on so many fronts this could yet turn out to be one of the most disappointing in the club's history – or one of the most remarkable. Ashley Shaw