Twelve points ahead and in full steam, it appears a matter of when not if Manchester United clinch their twentieth Premier League title with the widely expected duel with their city rivals failing to materialise.

The Cutter looks at twelve reasons – one for each point – why Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are romping home unimpeded.

1/ NDJ – No Defensive Judge/Jury

City’s intent to retain their crown was significantly undermined before a ball was barely kicked with the surprise sale of their enforcer De Jong on the cheap to Milan.

The Dutchman was adored by the fans for his wholehearted snap and bite but even amongst the blue brethren he had his critics for some noticeable shortcomings. He was all graft and no craft said some. Too many square balls said others.

Mancini obviously agreed which is why the club allowed a contract dispute become an issue and instead drafted in Javi Garcia from Benfica.

Garcia may be swoonsomely handsome but that aside it’s difficult to assess just what makes him a professional footballer. He lacks pace, mobility, spatial awareness, and even his ABC passing is negligible. Suddenly City’s midfield lacks muscle and the bouncer on the door has sneaked off for a ciggie letting in any undesirable opposition to run amok.

De Jong’s detractors may not overly miss his exit but they sure as hell miss the qualities he brought to the side and perhaps the biggest consequence is that a team that bases so much of their play on possession now look unsure and fearful, their confidence stripped away knowing there is no longer insurance should they lose it.

2/ Robin van Goals

In the summer there were mutterings and snipes about Ferguson’s decision to so aggressively pursue the Dutchman’s signature. Some said he was over-priced considering his age; others suggested the main motivation was to keep him from their rivals’ paws; while more still scratched their heads at the wisdom of spending most of the summer budget on an attacker when United’s midfield was so deficient of drive.  19 goals already –many of them crucial late deciders – and a series of sensational performances have unequivocally vindicated the move with United now having a fearsome multifaceted attack that can win games even on off-days.

3/ Kompany all alone

From a classy colossus that had people unashamedly making comparisons to the very best of his ilk to a player wracked with uncertainty and doubt the vapid form shown by City’s captain this term has been startling.

Where once the one-man dam was impenetrable now he all-too-often has to rely on his impeccable timing to make Hollywood tackles to redeem him from faulty positioning and – something that would have been unimaginable last year – general flapping.

Kompany’s plight has hardly been helped by the complete absence of protection in front of him which has routinely led to open surges where he finds himself hopelessly outnumbered. Even so the fact that he has been forced to concentrate on regaining the basics of his own game has resulted in a captain being not able to lead. City have been a rudderless ship as a consequence.

4/ Ferguson’s pride

The delight in which Blues revelled in Ferguson’s utter misery last May was tempered with the sure knowledge that he would be back this term more fired up than ever. His freakish iron-will had bullied what was on paper an ordinary United side to 89 points and with the fire now stoked to a hellish degree – and Van Persie and Kagawa improving his options – it is no surprise to see United back in dominant control of a title race.

5/ Carrick and co

Last year United’s midfield was staffed with an ineffective Anderson and a player in Michael Carrick who often appeared to be stuck in neutral. Looking back it’s perplexing to the point of exasperation how they managed to achieve such a magnificent points haul considering there was a noticeable dearth of energy and sprite in the engine room.

Now though Carrick is a man reborn; controlling and patrolling with United starting to dominant centrally like they used to with such intimidation in times past. More worrying still for ABUs the sublime Kagawa has overcome his injury and is rediscovering his swirling Bundesliga form.

6/ Silva to bronze

For City the very opposite is true. In 2011/12 the creative guile of David Silva was of such bewitching wonder he was worth the clichéd ticket price alone and though he dipped alarmingly in the latter half the Spanish maestro’s baton was not required as the orchestra played on regardless.

It should not be under-estimated just how integral Silva is to City’s play. He is both their philosophy and method and though his impish touches are back and the spirit has been revived it amounts to routine creativity in comparison to twelve months prior.

It was the magic from Merlin that took City to untouchable heights and that spell appeared to be broken.

7/ Firing blanks

City embarked upon a record-breaking spree of goals leading up to February of last year and they arrived from a forward line full of arrogance and potency.

Now Balotelli’s dismal showings have seen him exit and suddenly the strikes of Dzeko and Aguero have become an onus of dependency.

Roberto Mancini has publicly bemoaned his attackers’ lack of firepower this term but 21 goals between the pair isn’t a bad return at this stage and amounts to nearly half of City’s overall total in the ‘for’ column. It is precisely that what is the concern with Silva, the woeful Nasri, and Tevez and Yaya Toure in particular firing blanks at a time when goals are becoming a premium.

8/ Spreading the payload

Whereas there is no such problem across at Old Trafford. The snipers may justifiably point out Van Persie’s impressive strike-rate as one of the main reasons for United’s charge but they are anything but a one-man team in this regard.

The present leaders have actually shared out the goal haul more than any other team this season with fourteen different players getting on the score-sheet. That’s two more than their nearest and dearest City with the multifaced Chelsea also trailing in their midst.

9/ Tinkering with a winning formula

There are few things more frustrating to a supporter than to witness a team in brilliant flow tinkered with unnecessarily. Roberto Mancini took this occurance to new heights earlier this season by insisting on adapting a back four that is capable of complete lock-down into a trio rife with confusion and haphazard defending.

Yes he experienced joy with this system in Italy and yes he saw Napoli undo his team with it in last season’s Champions League. But when you see Gael Clichy actually physically scratch his head at the chaos around him it’s hard to find any logic in the switch whatsoever. Now was not the time to experiment and Mancini’s insistence upon doing so has gone a long way in determining a swift end to European hopes and possibly no domestic silverware.

10/ Rafael

This may seem like a surprising inclusion – especially when it’s considered that City’s own right-back Zabaleta has been incomparably brilliant this term – but this isn’t about comparing like-for-like. Rather it’s to highlight the significant influence United’s Brazilian flyer has had in their relentless form.

While Van Persie and Rooney predictably gain the headlines Rafael’s stats are imposing at the back (with more successful tackles made than any other defender in the Prem so far) while his support down the flank has been invaluable.

Gary Neville’s immense contribution to the great United side at the start of this century will forever be under-valued. With the Old Trafford faithful remaining indifferent to Rafael this seems to be the fate of all the best full-backs in red.

11/ Resting on laurels

A lowering of the exceptional standards imposed last season due to basking in their once-in-a-lifetime triumph in May might be an indefinable accusation but certainly can be assumed. To an extent who can blame the City personnel considering how astonishing the finale was. Where do you go from there? How do you ‘go again’ with the same degree of commitment and hunger?

Losing the title to a 93rd minute winner would have given United coursing motivation to seek their revenge. Whereas with City an aura of contentment kicked in immediately (remember their daydreaming start v Southampton?) and has been impossible to shake off ever since.

12/ Injury time decider

After all the drama and twists-and-turns of last season the campaign was settled by a single injury-time strike. Who’s to say Robin van Persie’s equally late decider back in December’s derby at the Etihad won’t prove to be just as significant?

As Christmas loomed City were undeniably struggling – a Rolls Royce spluttering on fumes – but at that stage were just three points behind their hated rivals, still somehow unbeaten, and hard in contention.

The Dutchman’s floated set-piece put the red half of Manchester into the title ascendancy and they’ve shown no sign of relinquishing the high ground ever since.