Manchester City have seen their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League vanish in the space of little over a fortnight after their first blank of the campaign away to West Brom enabled Manchester United to pull level.
While Roberto Mancini’s men were being held to a goalless draw at a ground where they regularly struggle, the Hawthorns, the champions strolled to a second 5-0 victory in six days to wipe away their neighbours advantage.
All that keeps the FA Cup winners top is a superior goal difference, though that edge is being eroded with every game, and with Manchester United hosting bottom club Blackburn on New Year’s Eve, they need a point to start 2012 in first place.
Should Sir Alex Ferguson’s side do what is expected of them against Rovers, with odds of 1/7 offered on them on Ladbrokes, Manchester City will require a New Year’s Day victory at Sunderland to re-emerge as pacesetters, an 8/15 prospect.
It was Dimitar Berbatov, inexplicably overlooked for the majority of this season despite being the division’s joint-top goalscorer last term, who the Red Devils had to thank against Wigan after a hat-trick in only his second start of 2011-12.
They are now 6/5 to claim what would be their fifth title in six years and 20th in history, whereas Manchester City, even after dropping points in three of their last six matches compared to just one of their opening 12, remain odds-on at 4/5.
And though Andre Villas-Boas and Harry Redknapp retain hope of a wide-open battle, the odds point to a two-horse race, with Chelsea and Tottenham way back at 25/1 and Arsenal, who can leapfrog the Blues by beating Wolves, 40/1 outsiders.