The top of the Premier League is a nice place to be at the beginning of the season. Confidence is high and players are motivated to achieve greatness, knowing they have got off to the best possible start. It’s a dream for some clubs, while for the city of Manchester, it’s more of a reality.
Both Manchester United and Manchester City sit joint-top of the Premier League as we head into October and it’s starting to look like a recurring theme. Having taken 16 points from a maximum of 18, both sides will look to continue this terrific form that could see a great battle for the title. Are we looking at a two-horse race?
“Man United have a machine-like approach”
As of now, City and United look like the most balanced teams in the country, having both a strong defence and a ruthless attack. Where the Citizens are surplus in terms of pace and acceleration, United’s advantage is their sheer power and almost machine-like approach in the way they win games. Even though naturally Pep Guardiola’s side have always lacked a solid defence, the reliance on forwards Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus proves they can outscore any opponent.
Pep has found the winning formula!?
Their recent wins over Liverpool, Watford and Crystal Palace saw them score 16 goals in the process, including 5 goals for Aguero and 3 for Jesus, touting the beginning of a great partnership between the pair. Even when they’re not playing together, as Jesus missed the game against Palace, others stepped up to the plate such as Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane who bagged 5 goals between them in those three games.
Guardiola’s goalscoring prowess is an indicator of how well he has implemented his system into English football. Where last season they were found lacking goals and often overplaying, this year they have seemed to have found the winning formula, beating teams by big margins and almost scoring whenever they want to. The combination between the forwards and the men behind them, like Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva is a joy to watch.
We’ve arguably seen the best start De Bruyne has ever had to a season as his game has evolved to see him dictate play and be the focal point of when City turn defence into attack. But special mentions have to go to the wing backs who De Bruyne has been supplying too. Summer singings Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy are a massive improvement over the previous wingbacks and are such a great attacking threat. Even though Mendy may now miss games due to injury, his replacement in Danilo is now slouch either.
Mourinho will match City in every way
Standing in their way of league domination is arch rivals and fellow city occupants, Manchester United. Jose Mourinho’s men have had a blistering start to the campaign, going toe-to-toe with Guardiola’s tactical astuteness. Not only have they vastly improved on last season’s performances, they have appeared to found the completeness that is seeing them comfortably win games and keep clean sheets.
With 17 goals scored already this season, it is the attacking formation which has seen Mourinho earn credit for changing from seasons past. No longer is his focal objective to keep a clean sheet and nick a goal when they can, he is now allowing his players more freedom to move the ball, take on varying formations during the game and get more into the box.
This change has already seen players like Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan pay dividends as they become more involved in the attacking play, something which has been boosted by the arrival of Nemanja Matic who can ensure mistakes are kept to a minimum defensively. However, nothing will have given this United side more of a boost than the arrival of serial goalscorer Romelu Lukaku. Having already bagged 6 league goals in 6 games, Lukaku could potentially be on his way to the Golden Boot. Although he will have some serious contenders for the accolade, his ability to cause havoc in the opposition box is something that will see him score plenty of goals this season.
Rival fans will be jealous of United’s attack and more so knowing they have someone like David De Gea between the sticks, keeping the opposition at bay. It has become a terrific piece of business to keep the Spaniard at the club as he has developed into a world-class goalkeeper, one of the best in the world. With him organising the defence and ensuring no mistakes are made, Manchester United will definitely keep more clean sheets and shut the door on many strikers.
Who can stop these two?
This causes a lot of issues for title rivals Chelsea and Liverpool, who hold the key to prevent this turning into a two-horse race, especially as they face these two Manchester clubs at home in the next few games. If both Chelsea and Liverpool can beat their title rivals, this would definitely close the pending gap between the clubs and open up the title race, at least until Christmas.
Tottenham Hotspur would benefit from that too as they are increasingly finding their form and with Harry Kane unable to stop scoring, who knows where they could end up if they can take on the big teams and beat them? Mauricio Pochettino’s men can definitely take points from the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City as they have proven last season and if they do, they could propel themselves to the fight at the top.
To match the attacking force of United and City, Spurs and Liverpool have that in abundance and we’ve already seen Chelsea play great attacking football too. However, the odd one out of the trio is Liverpool who as boisterous as they are when they go forward, they are equally shambolic at the back. Recent performances suggest Liverpool will continue to struggle to close out games and win with clean sheets, especially considering the poor form of their centre backs as well as Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius. Klopp has plenty of work to do on that front.
However, Chelsea and Tottenham, even though they are lacking the completeness City and United possess, both London clubs have started to pick up form and are finding it at the right time. The likes of Kane and Alvaro Morata have been pivotal in their ascent to the top and because they have solid defences too, it will be important for them to continue winning in order to stop this title race from becoming a boxing game between the two Manchester giants.
It will be an interesting season to see how things go and a lot will depend on how the next few games pan out. With Chelsea playing Manchester City at home and Man Utd facing Liverpool away, fans will be expecting to see big clashes between these top sides which will definitely play a major part in the title race. It may only be fixtures in October but it’s these big-game clashes which show if a team really has the credentials to win the Premier League.