Had Daniel Levy given Andre Villas-Boas the striker and midfielder he needed last summer, then Spurs would surely have finished above Arsenal. This was a predictable collapse...
The events of the past week have set up an exciting summer in the Premier League, but first, will Spurs leave it late on the final day? And Benitez deserves lots of credit...
Roberto Mancini claimed Manchester City still had a 10% chance of retaining their title on Saturday evening, but Manchester United's straightforward victory over Everton has reduced the probability to an infinitesimal amount.
As I said last week, the league leaders are improving as the season progresses and the 12-point gap at the top is just rewards for their relentless efforts. That cushion, combined with City's woes and an uncomplicated fixture list surrounding the Champions League tie against Real Madrid, suggests United are not about to implode any time soon.
Sir Alex Ferguson spoke of his fear of doing a 'Devon Loch' before last season's collapse, but at this rate United's horse could stumble, break its leg, be pulped into burger meat and still crawl over the finish line ahead of a City side wracked with self-doubt.
Even with an unfamiliar and still rather raw central midfield pairing of Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley, Ferguson's side bossed an Everton team that had lost only three of their previous 34 Premier League matches. Jones poured scorn on claims that Marouane Fellaini is the midfield presence United lack when they face resilient opponents such as the Toffees, while Cleverley was tidy and tenacious as always.
The soft underbelly is becoming firmer, with back-to-back Premier League clean sheets secured for only the second time this season. Nemanja Vidic's return has added much-needed organisation, and Rafael (more on him later) and Jonny Evans are continuing to defy critics who suggested they would never make it at Old Trafford earlier in their United careers.
Ferguson will be content with the way the season is progressing but, as a man who has been embroiled in so many fierce battles at the top, there may be a tinge of disappointment at the way City have faded so pathetically. This was meant to be his greatest ever achievement, but instead the 2013 title race is rapidly losing its recall value.
That is not to say United don't deserve enormous credit for their achievement and while last year's battle at the top delicately twisted and turned, Ferguson's side have hammered home maximum advantage from City's slips in the current campaign. The Reds have amassed their highest ever Premier League points total after 26 games, embarrassing their rival's embarrassment of riches.
United will travel to Madrid in confident mood following another productive weekend and, while the title race is dead on its feet, hopefully we are at least treated to a classic Champions League tie.
Nick Miller makes a compelling case here for Phil Jones to be handed a man-marking job on Cristiano Ronaldo when United face Madrid, but Rafael will also be relishing his biggest test after arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday. The right-back has come on leaps and bounds in the current campaign and has recovered from the ignominy of being substituted in the first half of United's 4-3 win over Reading in December. After his surprise omission from the Brazil squad to face England, Wednesday is the perfect opportunity for Rafael to show just how far he has progressed.
Giggs' neat finish set United on their way against Everton and continued his astonishing record of scoring in the league in every season for the past 53 years.
Southampton and Mauricio Pochettino
Considering Nigel Adkins' excellent work at Southampton and the ruthless nature of his dismissal, I've been reluctant to praise Mauricio Pochettino thus far. Two draws against Everton and Wigan and a defeat to Man United, albeit slightly unfortunate, represents a run of form no better than Adkins had achieved in his final 12 Premier League matches in charge, which saw Saints pick up 18 points and lose just twice.
However, Pochettino undersold himself somewhat by claiming 'belief' was the key factor in Southampton's brilliant 3-1 victory over Man City. "Victories only come if you believe you can get them," said the manager. "Everyone here at Southampton has belief."
Saints' belief, which had been built up under Adkins, has certainly played a part in the seamless transition to Pochettino's tenure and was crucial in the team refusing to throw away another lead on Saturday. But the Argentine has also instigated an energetic high-pressing game that didn't allow City to settle or dictate the tempo of the match. Our friends at WhoScored discussed how the new manager's tactics were already evident in his first game in charge against Everton, and Pochettino's system had continued to evolve before a deserved first win on Saturday.
Sir Alex Ferguson claimed Southampton were the best team to visit Old Trafford this season after United's recent 2-1 victory and while Joe Hart and Gareth Barry helped Saints on their way against City, they look a well-drilled and sophisticated side. Southampton may only be four points above the relegation zone, but with a favourable fixture list over the final 12 matches, survival is very much in their own hands.
Arsenal and Wojciech Szczesny
A solid performance against a robust team that made Arsenal work hard for their narrow victory. For once it was appropriate for Arsene Wenger to harp on about mental strength after the Gunners, led by the inspired Szczesny, showed impressive resilience to hold on for three points in the final half-hour following Carl Jenkinson's red card.
Bacary Sagna also deserves praise after a much-inproved performance as a makeshift centre-back, while Santi Cazorla's lively display was reminiscent of his form in the first third of the season. It was a difficult afternoon for new signing Nacho Monreal, but on the whole the left-back equipped himself well and he'll be better for the experience of seeing the ugly face of the Premier League in his first two matches.
Jenkinson's dismissal will be a concern to Wenger as he plots Bayern Munich's downfall and the manager may now choose not to risk the young right-back against Franck Ribery after he struggled to cope with the less convincing threat of Adam Johnson. But the injured Thomas Vermaelen is reportedly struggling to make the Gunners' Champions League tie in eight days' time, leaving Wenger with a headache over his team selection.
Another worry highlighted by the manager at the weekend is Arsenal's efficiency, which is hardly a new development. After insisting that his team can no longer afford to drop points in the race for a Champions League place, Wenger said: "We lacked efficiency in our finishing, we didn't finish what we created. But we create, and that's positive.
"Sometimes, it's like that. If you look at our games, we score five, seven and suddenly sometimes none, because maybe this team is developing and learning and needs to be a bit more efficient."
It isn't difficult to see where the problem lies when you consider Olivier Giroud has hit the target with only one of his last ten shots and, despite five goals in his last five appearances, the striker is still struggling to prove that he is of the standard required to lead Arsenal's attack following his £10million move from Montpellier.
Giroud's goals have only directly contributed to two points in the Premier League this season - the draws against Fulham and Liverpool - while his integration into the first team has caused a certain amount of upheaval, with Wenger forced to change the way Arsenal play to an extent. Compared to last season the Gunners provide a higher number of crosses per game, which suits Giroud, who seems to be at his best when attacking balls into the middle.
But does the approach get the most out of Cazorla and Jack Wilshere in the centre? In some ways Arsenal have appeared more one-dimensional this season with Giroud offering nowhere near the same flexibility as Robin van Persie. The France international's nine goals in his first campaign in the Premier League may represent a reasonable return, but he is hardly setting the world alight and his claim to being a creative force is also something of a fallacy, with only two of the forward's nine assists contributing to the Gunners' bid to stay in the top four.
Tottenham and Gareth Bale
Bale deservedly stole the plaudits for another match-winning performance against Newcastle, but Andre Villas-Boas will be pleased with how his team is coping with the loss of Sandro and Jermain Defoe - two players who were hugely instrumental in the first half of the season.
As I wrote here, the flexibility of Spurs' forward line is helping to maintain their pursuit of a Champions League place. While it may seem that Bale, as the star of the team, is the only player who can seamlessly switch positions, his teammates have also been forced to readjust following Defoe's absence.
Although Clint Dempsey is hardworking rather than spectacular, the forward put in a shift at centre-forward before Villas-Boas' half-time switch against Newcastle, following which he continued to offer an outlet on the left. Lewis Holtby can also fill in in Bale's natural position if required, while Emmanuel Adebayor was brought on to play slightly behind the Wales international on Saturday, from where he played a key role in the winning goal.
I've written before about Spurs' cohesion and a difficult match against a resurgent Newcastle side yielded three points through the team's willingness to adapt. It was an arduous afternoon against a Toon team bubbling with confidence after claiming a first win from behind since October 2010 in their last outing, but Spurs showed they don't always have to be at their best to win.
The Swans suffered only their second defeat in 12 matches (in all competitions) against West Ham last week, but they returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion against QPR with Michu ending his mini scoring drought. Their Premier League clash against Liverpool on FA Cup weekend should provide an interesting and welcome diversion.
An unfortunate injury to the impressive Chico Flores is probably Bradford's best chance of claiming an unlikely League Cup victory.
A hard-fought and deserved victory over West Ham, but things don't get any easier for Paul Lambert and Aston Villa with fixtures against Arsenal and Man City on the horizon.
The winger underlined his importance to Arsenal as he equalled his highest total of assists (eight) in a single Premier League season against Sunderland.
"Luis Suarez has really settled into the club now and, if you look at it at this stage, Liverpool are probably playing the best football in the Premier League."
Please, Steve. We don't want to see that sort of brown-nosing while we're having breakfast.
Norwich, Fulham and Sunderland
More mid-table mediocrity than obscurity. Two bad weeks and any of these three teams could find themselves dragged into the relegation mire. Being better than Villa, Reading, Wigan and QPR is no achievement.
Moussa Sissoko and Papiss Cisse conspired to lose possession on 12 occasions against Spurs - only two fewer than every other player on the pitch combined. Sissoko may have grabbed another assist from his position just behind Cisse, but Alan Pardew clearly has work to do as he moulds a new-look forward line.
West Ham have picked up just a single point in their last eight matches away from home and have scored only six goals in that period.
Although Sam Allardyce claimed the team had given "an outstanding performance with nothing at the end of it", in their disappointing defeat to Villa, Hammers' owner David Gold saw the afternoon rather differently and tweeted on Sunday evening: 'Disappointed for the fans who travelled hundreds of miles on a miserable day to lose to a team in the bottom three. We should do better.'
With Allardyce having to wait until the end of the season to discuss a new contract, it's clear there is pressure on the manager to improve the team's disastrous away form. Peter Coates should take note.
It took the Sunderland captain just over a minute into his return from injury to receive his first yellow card. Will he ever learn?
At what point do a few mistakes become a bad season? Hart is often credited with 'fronting up' after making an error and it was the same on Saturday evening when the Match of the Day panel said the England international was the first to hold his hands up after his clanger against Southampton. But who else should be first to acknowledge the keeper's mistake?
Roberto Mancini certainly disagreed with any lenience to Hart and said after City's defeat: "It was a really bad mistake from Joe. It was not good enough. It's not strange because he's done a few mistakes this year."
It seems foolish to praise Hart for accepting blame when he has continued to make errors throughout the season and commending the 25-year-old for owning up to his faults serves also to absolve him for his ongoing problems. Is it any wonder he's becoming complacent, as Roy Keane first suggested in October.
Roberto Mancini and Manchester City
Mancini, on January 13: "We should be ready when United lose a point...we can recover ten, it is not a problem."
February 1: "I think when we arrive at the end of February, the gap will be very, very small."
February 9: "I don't think in these last two years there is a team that has played better than us."
February 10: "We have 10% (chance) maybe. It'll be very difficult to win the league. I use to be always be optimistic and want to be in this moment, but it's difficult."
February 11: "The players should take responsibility - if they have big balls. If not, they can't play in a top team."
It always boils down to balls in the end.
After City's dreadful performance against Southampton and Mancini's subsequent criticism of his expensive flops, questions must be raised as to whether the manager is starting to lose his players as his tenure at the Etihad creeps towards a lame-duck egress.
With City surrendering their title so soon and also exiting the Champions League in embarrassing fashion, the club's owners are bound to be considering Mancini's future and the manager's attempts to wash his hands of the team's peformances in the past fortnight are unlikely to work in his favour.
Mancini seems an affable chap in press conferences and although the champions spent what is best described as a f**ktonne of cash to win the Premier League last season, his achievements shouldn't be belittled. But if City want to rule at home and in Europe, there is no evidence in Mancini's CV to suggest that he can lead them to accomplish those aims. As I've said previously in Champions League Winners and Losers, Internazionale regressed in the competition during Mancini's reign.
The manager's problem now is that he has only the extremely unlikely chance of repeating last season's extraordinary turnaround to convince Sheikh Mansour that he is worth another season. The owner indicated his intention to build a long-term strategy by awarding Mancini a five-year contract last summer, but in the short term of the current campaign, not one of City's first-team goals have been achieved.
What should have been another thrilling end to the season is now set to be a long old slog for City and a nervous wait for Mancini.
Prepare the excuses! Reel in the apologists! The end is nigh!
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.