The rule changes that could hand the title to Man United

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Earlier this week, Manchester City leapfrogged their local rivals United into top spot on goal difference – and after the match, Gary Neville revealed that Sir Alex Ferguson always drilled into his players how terrible it would be to lose the title on goal difference.

This set us wondering if the Govan knight could protect his youngsters by appealing for a late change to the Premier League's absurdly meritocratic differentiation criteria (points, goal difference, goals scored) and adopting some methods previously tried here and abroad. But how many would lift the champions back into pole position?

There's no point changing back to the two-points-per-win system abandoned (on Jimmy Hill's insistence) in 1981: both teams have won 26 times.

Using the old Goal Average system – in which goals scored are divided by goals conceded, and abandoned in England in 1976 – City still win comfortably, 3.259 to 2.606.

Under the head-to-head system, used (in preference to goal difference) in La Liga, City still win…

…and obviously City would win on the away goals rule between the two teams. However, if we compare away goals across the entire campaign United are top – just: each team has scored 36, but United have conceded three fewer goals on the road than City's 17.

If we apply the criteria UEFA use in international qualifying to rank runners-up – ie ignoring results against the lowest-ranking teams in certain tables – then we have to discount the Manchester rivals' results against Wolves. City beat them 2-0 and 3-1, but United won 5-0 and 4-1, so again it's bad news for Fergie…

Perhaps United could press for the introduction of the Argentinian system for deciding relegation candidates, which is to average out each team's points hauls from the last three years. Under this system – which has long been accused of favouring big teams having an off year – United would be nine points clear of their rivals.

Various leagues around Planet Football have tried other tweaks to their league tables. Throughout the 1960s the Greeks utilised a "3-2-1" system, whereby draws gave two points and even losses a point. In this instance that wouldn't change anything bar the totals, as the teams have each won 26, drawn five and lost five. Oh well.

A few leagues, notably France in the 1970s, have awarded a bonus point for scoring three or more goals. This is something City in particular have managed with aplomb, 13 times at home (including one 3-3 draw) and six times away to United's eight times at home (again, including one draw) and five times away. (If a second bonus point were awarded for a sixth goal, United would get one for their 8-2 annihilation of Arsenal… but City would get two for their two 6-1 wins at Carrow Road, and, well, you know the other place they won 6-1.)

For one season in the early '80s, the League of Ireland awarded an extra point for away wins and draws (so four for an away win, three for home win, two for away draw, one for home draw). United's 12 wins and three draws on the road would bag them an extra 15 points compared to City's 13 (nine wins, four draws).

In mid-80s Bulgaria, teams received no points for scoreless draws. City and United don't often do blank games: in fact they've only managed one between them this season, and City would be really regretting their Boxing Day deadlock with West Brom. Whatever happened to that bright young Baggies boss?

Meanwhile in those crazy mid-80s, over in China, headers counted double in the league table (not in the match – you couldn't instantly come back from two down by flicking it up and nodding it in). No Premier League team has scored more headers than United's 15 this season, but City have bagged nine (including Vincent Kompany's in this week's summit meeting) so they'd still be two goals ahead.

At the same time, the Chinese also awarded bonus points for each team member called up to the national squad. City have had six players capped by England this year (Hart, Richards, Lescott, Barry, Johnson and Milner); United have had five (Smalling, Jones, Young, Rooney and Welbeck) but have also had call-ups for Cleverley, Carrick and Ferdinand, so they win on that score.

If all else fails, United could resort to the measures used in playgrounds and pubs everywhere: My Stadium's Bigger Than Your Stadium...

...and anyway, We've Won More Trophies...

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