Monday's Manchester derby either has the potential to be one of a greatest matches ever played in the Premier League or a resounding disappointment. These sorts of matched are sometimes called (and I think wrongly) "Six Point" matches because the potential for one team to draw six points clear of another exists.
This then is the situation:
Utd. Pd: 35 GD: +54 Pts: 83
City Pd: 35 GD: +60 Pts: 80
If United win, they go to 86 points which given that there'd be only two matches for both of them in the season, the only possible way for them to lose the title would be to lose both fixtures AND for City to win both of theirs.
If City though the situation changes. Assuming City win by only a single goal, then table would look like this:
City Pd: 36 GD: +61 Pts: 83
Utd. Pd: 36 GD: +53 Pts: 83
If City were to beat United, then potentially the title race could still run down to the last few minutes of the season. If that were to happen then I think that most neutral fans (if such a thing exists) would be quite pleased to see a Man City win.
Of course I can't leave this discussion without first making mention of what I think was the greatest match of league football ever played.
On 26th May 1989, Arsenal travelled to Anfield to play Liverpool in what would be the title decider. Originally the match had been slated for St George's Day (Apr 23) but only a week earlier, 96 Liverpool fans had been killed in the Hillsborough Disaster.
As it stood:
Liv'pol Pd: 37 GD: +39 Pts: 76
Arsenal Pd: 37 GD: +35 Pts: 73
Arsenal needed to win by two clear goals. If they were able to do that they would have been level on point and level on goal difference and would have won the title only on the number of goals scored for the season.
The problem was that no side had actually beaten Liverpool at Anfield in 1988-9 by two goals and Arsenal had not won at all at Anfield for 15 years previous going back to 1974.
Liverpool themselves were on track to claim the League and FA Cup Double and would have been the first side in English history to have won it twice (having done so in 1986)
When Alan Smith scored in the 52nd minute The Kop fell silent; for the next agonising 39 minutes they remained subdued, for they knew that if Arsenal scored again the season, title and double was over.
This ten minute video gives a good idea of the events of that day:
If you don't want to watch the video (or can't), read on:
In the last minute of extra-time Michael Thomas collected a Steve Nicol mistake and scored the vital goal with 25 seconds to go.
Afterwards the table looked like this:
Arsenal Pd: 38 GD: +37 Pts: 76
Liv'pol Pd: 38 GD: +37 Pts: 76
Thomas would eventually be signed by Liverpool for the 1991-2 season and even score for Liverpool in the 1992 FA Cup Final, but he will go down in history for scoring the single most important goal which has ever been scored in English Football history.
Not only in the context of that season but for every season to follow. BSkyB would buy up the TV rights and steal from the public what they used to be able to see for free; stands would go from terraces to all-seaters following the Taylor Report and the fans themselves were reamitted to the human race after the riots and hooliganism of the 70s and 80s (and would eventually be priced out of the stadia they used to stand in).
The City v United match on 30th Apr 2012 will be important in the context of one season: the Liverpool v Arsenal match on 26th May 1989 was important in the context of all seasons evermore.