Continued from page 1

But it also was unambitious _ and it didn’t work.

Ferguson acknowledged as much by resorting to Plan B in the second half, pulling off Park then Scholes and sending on dynamic Danny Welbeck and winger Antonio Valencia.

But still United could not manufacture the goal it needed to cancel out Kompany’s. It never really came close.

Ferguson lost his cool, exchanging furious words and yap-yap-yap hand gestures with Mancini on the sideline. That suggested the extent to which the challenge from City is unsettling the peace of mind and legacy of the manager who has seen everything.

“They’re in the driving seat now,” Ferguson said of City afterward. “They only need to win two games of football.”

City’s last two opponents _ Newcastle and Queen’s Park Rangers _ won’t be pushovers. Newcastle needs wins for a chance to qualify for European football next season. QPR could drop out of the Premier League if it loses its last games.

United’s final opponents, Swansea and Sunderland, look easier, because both are lodged in the middle of the league table and thus, in theory, have less to play for.

If City and United both win their final games, then the blues will likely be champions because they’ve so far scored more goals and conceded fewer than United.

If that happens, Ferguson will rue even more the goals United conceded in the 6-1 loss to City.

“It’s his worst nightmare,” said Gary Neville, Ferguson’s former captain and defender who made 566 appearances for United and now is a commentator for television broadcaster Sky.

“Losing the championship on goal difference is what he always talks about, every single season.”

And once this new-look City side has its first championship _ which would be the club’s first since 1968 _ then it could become a very tough juggernaut to stop, as United was.

That was the warning from United captain Patrice Evra before Monday’s game. “If they win the Premier League, a page is turned and it’s a revolution, and revolutions have always been about Manchester United,” English newspapers quoted Evra as saying.

Or, as a banner at the City stadium said: “The noisy neighbors are getting louder, Alex!”

A quarter century ago, when he took over at United, Ferguson’s challenge was to usurp Liverpool. As he famously later said, he wanted to knock England’s dominant team off its (expletive) perch.

Story Continues →