This time back in 2012, Manchester was arguably the center of the British soccer universe; Manchester City was defending its 2011-2012 EPL title, Manchester United was gearing up to win it back.
Today, both clubs are reeling after shocking losses -- City fell 3-2 in its visit to a spirited Aston Villa, while United allowed West Bromwich Albion to capture three points at Old Trafford for the first time since 1978 with a 2-1 win.
Both results are shocking in their own right, but West Brom's victory could have the most long-term ramifications. David Moyes' seat is getting considerably hotter, and perhaps rightfully so: Aside from Marouane Fellaini's addition and Paul Scholes' re-retirement, this is the same United squad that clinched the title with games to spare last season. As it is now, the team is off to its worst start since the 1989-90 season, when they lost three of its first six with Alex Ferguson at the helm. At the time, those results turned fans against the now-legendary manager as the club (wisely, it turned out) elected to keep their faith in the Scot.
Will the United board (which now includes Sir Alex himself) be as forgiving now as it was then? If United's form continues as such, the answer to that question will provide a kind of litmus test of how just how much the concept of patience has gone out the window in the last quarter century of soccer.
West Brom got its win thanks to a couple of impressive goals (or unimpressive defending, depending on your point of view). Morgan Amalfitano was responsible in some way for both, scoring the first and best of the pair with a slalom run and clever finish past David De Gea. What was Rio Ferdinand doing there, though?
If there is any silver lining for United, it's that Wayne Rooney kept up his good form with an equalizer off a freekick. But Amalfitano played provider afterwards with a deft flick to Saido Berahino, who finished the winner from the top of the box.
City's loss, while surprising considering the squad's extravagant cost, really just continues the inconsistent form Manuel Pellegrini's side have shown through the first part of the season. Sure, it can crush United and Wigan at home (4-1 and 5-0 respectively), but it has struggled equally as much away from Etihad Stadium. In addition to today's loss, City lost to Cardiff City in Cardiff and could only manage a scoreless draw at Stoke in its other EPL away fixtures. It's hard to know exactly what causes these lapses while traveling, but Pelegrini will need to put a stop to it if City are to come out on top of this year's EPL race.
Give Aston Villa plenty of credit, though. Paul Lambert's side was dealt a tough mental blow when Yaya Toure bundled in a sloppy goal on the stroke of halftime, but they came out for the second stanza with renewed vigor. Karim El Ahmadi leveled the scores at one in the 51st minute, Edin Dzeko put Manchester City back in front five minutes later, and then the chaos began. First with this sweetly-hit freekick from Leandro Bacuna:
And then this colossal error from ... well ... everyone in the Manchester City defense. Kudos to American goalkeeper Brad Guzan for the assist, though, and of course Andreas Weimann for the opportunistic finish.
Thanks to these results, London clubs Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chelsea will make up the EPL's top three by weekend's end (though not necessarily in that order). Perhaps this is the season where the EPL spotlight shifts south, from Manchester to the capital.