Premier League Update
The festive period has come to an end and the Premier League landscape continues to change incessantly. It's time for an update on the world's greatest league.
The Red Devils have seen their lead atop the table swell to seven points over their Manchester rivals.
Since a shock loss to Norwich City in the middle of November, United has gone on nine-match unbeaten run in the league, a span that includes a 3-2 win over City at the Etihad and a thrilling 4-3 triumph over Newcastle at Old Trafford.
Roberto Mancini has come out and said Robin Van Persie is the difference between the two sides, and it'd be hard to truly disagree. RVP has continued his stellar form, scoring 16 goals in 21 domestic appearances this term, while adding six assists for good measure. He's been simply sublime.
Wayne Rooney may be dealing with a knee injury, but with RVP and Javier Hernandez in such deadly form in front of goal and Shinji Kagawa returning, the Red Devils should be able to manage just fine. Check out our tip on the FA Cup 3rd round draw, featuring Robin van Persie and Manchester United.
City grasping at straws
You never know what can happen in this league, but being seven points behind a side as dominant as United is quite the mountain to climb.
City has done well to score two straight wins, the latest a comprehensive 3-0 win at home over Stoke. But with Sergio Aguero suffering a hamstring injury and Mario Balotelli's future in doubt with the club, the impetus will fall on Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko to make things happen. Can they rise to the challenge and help the Citizens get a positive result in a crucial away tie with Arsenal in 10 days?
Pressure is mounting on Mancini, so he needs all the help he can get.
Chasing the pack
There's a host of clubs in the running for a top-four finish, with Tottenham and Chelsea currently holding those last two coveted spots.
Spurs are on a real roll at the moment, having won three matches on the trot and scoring nine goals in the process. Both Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon have been fabulous of late.
As for Chelsea, they suffered a horrendous blow by losing to lowly QPR at home the other day. The pending signing of Demba Ba should give Blues fans a nice boost in morale, as his presence will take some of the pressure off of Fernando Torres up front.
Other teams in the running include Everton, Arsenal, West Brom and Liverpool.
Arsene Wenger has the Gunners playing some great football the minute, while Everton just notched a hugely important 2-1 away win over Newcastle to keep them just two points behind Chelsea for fourth place.
West Brom has hit a bit of a snag lately, losing two consecutive matches, one away to Manchester United and one at home to Fulham. We figured such a wonderful start for Steve Clarke's men couldn't be sustained all season long, but that doesn't mean the Baggies will drop off the face of the earth. They will still be a hard out for any opponent.
Then there's Liverpool, a team that seems to be on the up and up. The Reds have managed successive 3-0 victories to push them up into eighth place. Luis Suarez, who scored a brace in both wins, has now netted 15 times in 20 Premier League appearances this season. He's been unplayable.
A true test for Brendan Rodgers' crew is near on the horizon though, with an upcoming trip to Old Trafford to play United. We'll see just how good this team really is soon enough.