Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

City and United: The story so far

Posted on 5 October 2017 by Shane Murphy

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Manchester City and Manchester United have both had blistering starts to their Premier League campaigns, but six games in, what have we learnt so far?

Both sides have managed to rack up an impressive 16 points with five wins and one draw each so far, and before this weekend, the two clubs not only had the same amount of points, but the same goal difference with the same goals scored for and against! What separated them? A letter in the alphabet – the mere fact “City” comes before “United” in the Oxford English dictionary.

But last weekend proved pivotal, and although both clubs won, it was City who tipped their noses in front with a five star, five goal display against struggling Crystal Palace. At the same time United only managed a 1-0 away win to Southampton.

But what, if anything, does this tell us about the start of their title bids, and is it an indicator of what we can expect to see for the rest of the season?

Ciaran Kelly, sports writer for the Manchester Evening News, spoke exclusively to the Sports Gazette regarding both clubs and their current situations:

What do you think about the Manchester sides’ starts to the season?

It’s not been a massive surprise to me, as they could have both had more daunting fixtures in August and September. They started in similar fashion last season, but both teams have come on massively since then. City no longer rely on Aleksandar Kolarov or, even, David Silva to the same extent. Last season when Silva was not in the game, City were not in the game but that has changed dramatically now. The key for them now is, obviously, consistency; Kevin de Bruyne went off the boil as the season went on having looked an early frontrunner for the Player of the Year award last season.

“United are the team I see live most weeks and I’ve been quietly impressed. Small things stand out – they no longer aimlessly hoof the ball or struggle to make the breakthrough and they have a game-changing bench. They are also looking ominous at home, and fairly solid at the back, which are hallmarks of potential champions. But some of the scorelines this season have flattered them and I remember Mourinho saying in his post-match presser at Swansea how he wants to see his team losing in a game. That will be the real test of a young side ahead of some tricky game in the next few weeks.”

Whats going to be the difference in winning the title this year?

For the first time since 2015 you’re surely going to see a side win a title after successfully juggling the headache of Champions League football. United and, particularly, City will be aiming to at least get to the quarter-finals and will both hope to be leading the pack by that stage in the spring. That’s when the pressure will really be on as neither side were anywhere near top spot at that stage in the last two seasons.

“Mourinho’s title-winning sides traditionally start off with a head of steam but start to fizzle out and batten down the hatches into February so that is a little challenge for him. United fans won’t accept six at the back again this season, but would Mourinho be bold enough to continue to start both Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in a tough European away game? The opposite is true of City – they only really know how to play one way. And no one can really put their finger on what that ‘way’ is just yet.”

Finally, who do you think will win the league.

Ah, the dreaded question! I think it’s risky to write Chelsea off as the role of ‘underdog’ will really suit them in taking the pressure off a little in the coming months. I’m going to go for them following an early exit from the Champions League. But it’s just too early to call.”