Premier League

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Is the Premier League title race over?

Check out Ryan Giggs' goal for United against Everton on Sunday.
Check out Ryan Giggs' goal for United against Everton on Sunday.
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Warren Barton

Warren Barton draws on 16 years of professional soccer experience as a studio analyst for FOX Soccer. With more than 350 Barclays Premier League appearances, Barton starred for Wimbledon before rising to prominence with Newcastle United and the England national team. Follow him on Twitter.

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This was a defining weekend for the city of Manchester. United have what looks to be an unbeatable lead, while City’s chances of defending their title look to have evaporated. The races remain up and down the table, but I think we will look back and point to this weekend as when the league was won.

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But before we get going I must start with Paul Gascoigne. I played with Paul on the national team, and he was not only a fantastic player but a fantastic person as well. I actually played golf with him before I moved to the States, and he was great company. He’s going through some very hard times now, and he is in my prayers. But moreover, all of us in English football have a responsibility to give him the support and help he needs.

Alcoholism and addiction are terrible diseases, and the people who suffer from them need both our compassion and medical help. That’s why when I was with the PFA, I encouraged the FA, the Premier League and the football family at large, to step up with aid. I would like to repeat that call now, and ask that those of us in the game finish what we started, by setting up programs to aid our fellow players and sportsmen in their times of great need. It’s the right thing to do, not just for Paul, but for all our colleagues who need help.

On the pitch, hats off to Ryan Giggs and United. It was fitting that he scored on such an emotional weekend for the club, and the fact that he has now scored a goal in every single Premier League season is just astonishing. I’ve said it before: he’s one of the best ever to play the game and one of the best I’ve ever played against, and his class has shown through again this season.

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You must give credit to Sir Alex. He saw what his team was missing in the offseason, and went out and got it. Robin van Persie has to be the player of the year as it stands, and with the meat of the season gone, his 23 goals (19 in the BPL) have been the tonic. United now have a massive game on our air on Wednesday against Real Madrid in the Champions League, but at home they can take comfort that they now have a pretty soft league schedule ahead of them. Their next five league games are against teams in the bottom half, with three matches against sides in the drop zone.

Manchester City, on the other hand, played their poorest game under Roberto Mancini. He was being kind when he said only two players performed for him, and he is right when he says his team has just a 10% chance of retaining the title. Losing both Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany at critical times hurt City, but I’m worried about the fact that we keep seeing mistakes game after game that good players shouldn’t make. And if I’m a fan or the owner, I’m really worried about the lack of desire this team is showing me.

I was really impressed to see how composed and calm Aston Villa were in their win this Sunday. Brad Guzan made two fine late saves and I thought you saw a team that tried to pass the ball, stayed cool under what is enormous pressure and played the right way. I think the difference in the relegation battle is that Villa have a scorer in Christian Benteke. They have a lot of work yet to do, but perhaps things are finally coming together for the Villans.

Harry Redknapp doesn’t have that luxury with Bobby Zamora’s injury problems. Redknapp will be a hero at Loftus Road if he is able to dig Queens Park Rangers out of the mess they are in but with only 12 games left and needing 23 points, I don’t know if they can pull that off. Julio Cesar was super midweek for Brazil, but here, even with Chris Samba there to help out, that defense just made too many errors.

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Finally, I want to applaud Frank Lampard. I think he’s let his football do the talking, and now, he’s got a decision to make. I think Chelsea have blown an opportunity: this is man who’s scored 198 goals for the club, and yet they haven’t shown the respect that United showed both Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. I think it will come back to bite them.

I’m off to Madrid tonight for our huge midweek game: Real Madrid vs. Manchester United, live from 2 PM ET on Wednesday. I’m really proud to be bringing that game to you and I am very excited to get to work with Gus Johnson, who will be making his FOX Soccer debut. Let me know what you think about this big game on Twitter at @warrenbarton2 and remember, you can always ask questions to the entire gang at @FOXSoccer.

Thanks so much as always for watching and for reading. See you midweek for all the action from the Champions League!

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