Manch­ester City, United are the teams to beat

CityPress - - Sport - AN­THONY MCLEN­NAN sports@city­press.co.za

We’re only seven games in, but af­ter the blis­ter­ing start the two Manch­ester clubs have made, it’s not look­ing too good if you’re a Chelsea, Ar­se­nal, Tot­ten­ham or Liver­pool sup­porter.

Score the most goals, con­cede the least, and the odds of win­ning the ti­tle are pretty high. So far, the two Manch­ester clubs have con­ceded only twice in seven league out­ings, with the ar­rival of goal­keeper Eder­son Mo­raes seem­ingly solv­ing City’s pre­vi­ous is­sues at the back. Up front, the team in blue have blazed in 22 goals al­ready, and United are just be­hind with 21. Spurs, with 14 goals, are a dis­tant third.

De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Chelsea may be found to be want­ing for depth up front, and the same can cer­tainly be said of the Harry Kane-powered Spurs. There ap­pears to be no end to Liver­pool’s de­fen­sive woes, while the ever frag­ile Ar­se­nal camp is un­set­tled.

So it may just boil down to a two-horse race be­tween the Manch­ester teams, and it’s Pep Guardi­ola’s men who ap­pear to be a nose ahead of their neigh­bours at present.

United are still hav­ing to grind out some of their re­sults, and a fairly high per­cent­age of their goals have come in the fi­nal 10 min­utes of matches.

The Red Devils are also yet to face any of their ti­tle ri­vals.

City, on the other hand, are ab­so­lutely fly­ing – they are rip­ping op­po­nents apart with their flu­ent tran­si­tions and in­ci­sive at­tack­ing play; look­ing like a team very much in the Guardi­ola mould. They thumped Liver­pool 5-0 and com­pletely out­played cham­pi­ons Chelsea in a re­cent 1-0 win in Lon­don. The su­perb Kevin De Bruyne is mak­ing his enor­mous trans­fer fee seem a bar­gain, Ra­heem Ster­ling is back to his best, and, up front, Ser­gio Agüero and Gabriel Je­sus are quickly form­ing a deadly part­ner­ship.

Manch­ester United leg­end Ryan Giggs re­cently told Sky: “I think Chelsea will still be in the mix, but you’ve got to say City and Manch­ester

United have been im­pres­sive and are the teams to beat. I think we are see­ing the man­agers im­print­ing their own vi­sions on their teams. In

Pep’s case, with the goals they score and the chances they are cre­at­ing, it’s ex­cit­ing for City fans right now.”

That said, United man­ager José Mour­inho has brought back a lot of the con­fi­dence, swag­ger and, equally im­por­tantly, the tenac­ity and will to win. The more at­tack-minded ap­proach has got the sup­port­ers on board again. Op­po­si­tion sides ap­pear to be lin­ing up with more trep­i­da­tion against United than they have over the past few years.

Ne­manja Matić and Romelu Lukaku have given the team an ex­tra edge, although the key could be the con­tri­bu­tion from the likes of Mar­cus Rash­ford, An­thony Mar­tial and Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan – if they carry on rack­ing up goals and as­sists, United could take some stop­ping.

The next month, with games to come against Spurs, Liver­pool and Chelsea, will show just how up-for-it the Old Traf­ford club is. Of course, there will be twists and turns. In­juries will play a part and so could Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball.

But who would bet right now against the ti­tle race go­ing down to the wire like it did at the end of the 2011/12 cam­paign, when Agüero’s 94th-minute win­ner saw City snatch­ing it from United on goal dif­fer­ence?

PHO­TOS: GETTY IM­AGES

SPE­CIAL ONE José Mour­inho has had a bril­liant start this sea­son

FIND­ING HIS FEET Pep Guardi­ola’s team is on top of the log

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