The Premier League Season is well and truly underway and the 2 North-West giants of England are firmly running ahead of the pack.
They have scored the most goals, conceded the least, kept the most number of clean sheets, created the most chances, but their football is on two ends of a spectrum.
One team relies on enforcing and imposing themselves, physically and technically, over the opposition, finding new ways to score with each hurdle. Corners, free kicks, counter attacks and patient build up play, all feature.
They have a grandiose bully in attack; dynamism in creativity; a silky midfield enforcer and a big awkward weapon; with an astute defense, full of athleticism, converted wingers and strange faces; and probably the most technically gifted goalkeeper the club has ever seen.
This is of course, Manchester United, last season’s “Mickey Mouse treble” winners, who have equalled their best ever start to a season, with 16 in 6, grinding out victories with flattering scorelines and a manager who continues to remain prickly, arrogant, charming and always in the mix of it.
Their neighbours, tell a different story.
Overloaded with a wealth of attacking talents, and Raheem Sterling; they overpower teams by making them submit by sheer exhaustion, with wave and wave of attack, from left to right, all the way down to Fabian Delph scoring worldlies, Manchester City do it their way.
If Jose Mourinho is Batman, a morally wounded hero who will do whatever it takes to reach his goal, his Catalan nemesis, is Iron Man- a genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist, who has just one plan of attack- To Attack!
Manchester City are in scintillating form, swatting teams away for fun, with Aguero constantly scoring goals, Pep’s lord and saviour Jesus doing what he was bought for, Leroy Sane terrorizing the flanks, and Silva and De Bruyne being just unplayable.
That is the kind of performance you expect when you have put together the wealthiest squad in English football, but Pep is doing the job. If he wins the league, the money won’t be talked about.
Jose Mourinho on the other hand, has also spent that kind of money, where he has no excuses if he cannot win. Nemanja Matic was a steal, and Romelu Lukaku looks every bit the player United fans wanted Morata to be (they can deny it, but the fans were excited for Morata, and he is brilliant, no question).
A solid defense, and an enforcing midfield, give United the edge in the long run. But City have a far more talented squad, and a more energetic trio of wing backs, which will help bolster their charge.
United haven’t really been tested yet, and their visit to Anfield mid-October will give us a glimpse of what Jose Mourinho has in mind. Will he revert to type and park the bus, or will he play into Jurgen Klopp’s hands and go all-out attack? Anybody who is familiar with Jose Mourinho, knows it will be the former, and try and go for the ultimate smash and grab.
Machester City looked suspect when it was 11 v 11 against Liverpool, but their weekend clash versus the Defending Champions will be more telling of their credentials.
The Red Devils have the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic to return, while City’s Bernardo Bubblegum Silva hasn’t even got a look in yet. City have a stronger, and a better squad, with more talent, but Manchester United have the better spine and more numbers when it counts.
David De Gea v Ederson will be an interesting sub-plot as the season goes on, with De Gea winning 5-3 in Clean sheets this season, and both will be key to their teams.
It is going to be a long season for both clubs, and managing 4 competitions will be tough, but if anyone can do it, it’s Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.
We were promised a battle of gargantuan proportions last season, but it seems like The Second Coming of The Bad Boy and The Darling, is finally before us.
If Manchester United are crowned champions for the 21st time come May 2018, it’ll be a testament to their revival, and of their manager, who has been written off countless times as boring and defensive. The simple fact is- Jose Mourinho is a unique man, and a bloody good manager, who knows how to win, and has been given the platform to do just that. Put Manchester United back on the map. There are no excuses if he fails now.
If Man City do win the league, it’ll be the first time a team has won the league playing this brand of total football (not Arsene Wenger), and it will be a remarkable achievement, but not an unexpected one all the same. Pep Guardiola will continue to further his legacy, albeit this time with a cushion of oil money to fall back on. Either way, win is a win, and a title is a title.
Jose Mourinho may be a bad guy, but he has mellowed and embraced the culture at Manchester United, and looks slightly classier than usual (Mark Hughes cringes in the background), but he still has to get his behaviour in check, and really fix some issues in his squad, which can only happen on the training pitch and not the transfer market.
Mr. Guardiola has lost his charisma and charm, for developing youngsters from his own academy, for which he was renowned during his time at Barcelona. He now resorts to buying superstars and giving them a platform to thrive. There is nothing wrong in being a “chequebook manager”, but to give us the illusion that the Pep Guradiola project at Manchester City with their massive youth academy spending was to further the club, then all I say is:
130 million pounds sterling on full backs, is insane and laughable, but hey, at least he entertains us.
If Pep Guardiola wins the league, and he probably will, he will be the first bald manager to win the EPL (Conte did get a hair transplant), and he will add another success to his impressive CV.
He will go down as a fine coach, just not a unique one.