As we approach the month of the London Marathon, it's easy to draw comparisons with the famous long-distance race and the 2011/12 Barclays Premier League season.
With eight games to go for the front runners United and City, there is a sense that both sides have overcome the proverbial ‘wall’ and are preparing for the final sprint. Monday's game against Fulham showed the Reds - the wily old road-runners - are doing just enough to edge in front of the young pretenders who have enthusiasm to spare but little experience of those final few miles.
City’s dropped points away at Stoke three days before had seemingly set the platform for a ruthless United response. When Reds legend Paddy Crerand spoke of potentially another 5-0 victory against Fulham in the corridors of Old Trafford before the match, it was easy to forgive his faith and hard to disagree with the notion that a comfortable night was in prospect. There was a real sense around the ground that the match was going to be all about goal difference - after all, Sir Alex's side had stuck five past a deflated Wolves side just eight days earlier.
Whilst Crerand and the crowd expected to be treated to an attacking master class, it turned out to be a night when one of United's defenders caught the eye with a textbook performance. Again a robust Fulham strike force, Jonny Evans was outstanding; if he keeps this up, he could be a future leader of the United rearguard. Further forward, the solid run-outs for Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia showed the Reds have the resources to unsettle every defence that stands between United and another coronation day in May.
Just how key the Stoke and Fulham fixtures will prove to be for City and United remains to be seen, but with the Reds now out in front, it would be folly to bet against the old heads being first across the finishing line.