Can Manchester keep setting the pace?

On a Sunday afternoon late last month we saw a monumental shift in the power of English football. After 16 goals and 90 minutes of breathtaking football, Manchester had suddenly cemented itself as the power city of the Premier League. Manchester United’s 8-2 demolition of Arsenal at Old Trafford and Manchester City’s equally comfortable 5-1 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane meant you couldn’t avoid the amazing start both Manchester clubs had made to the season. Up and down the country, their competitors were stunned by United and City’s ruthless displays. But after only a month of the new Premier League season, are we getting too carried away by the start of the Manchester clubs?

Many would have expected reigning champions and title favourites United to be up at the top, whilst another summer of significant investment meant that City were always likely to be near the summit. But it is the manner in which both Manchester clubs have started the season that has meant it is easy to get carried away with their success. Attractive attacking football and solid defensive displays have seen few come really close to either team in their opening four games.

But should we be wary of impressive starts and possibly peaking too soon? Last season Chelsea looked the early favourites, two 6-0 wins to start the season followed by a number of successive victories had made them the early pace setters. Yet the Stamford Bridge side stumbled, their good start counting for nothing come the end of the season when they finished second.

Last season was different though – despite United’s eventual success no teams excelled and of the handful of title challengers, a lot were evenly matched in their failure to take control of the Premier League. But this season Manchester could have had closer rivals so far. Money has been spent by all their title rivals whilst Chelsea and Liverpool are enjoying good starts themselves under new managers yet no one even looks close to the Manchester juggernaut. Andre Villas-Boas’ Chelsea sit third, two points off the top with the only mathematical difference being an away draw separating them from the top two of City and United. I am by no means writing off the title challenge of Chelsea (or the more outside bets of Liverpool or Arsenal) after only four games but Manchester and London seem a world apart already.

But maybe we are getting lost in the admiration of their attacking style and identical 100 per cent records. Neither United nor City are likely to go the entire season unbeaten and the general dip in form that most clubs suffer will give some hope to their opponents, whether it be a brief or prolonged spell.

This week, culminating in another Super Sunday for both sides, will be a real test of both United and City’s resolve. United travel to Benfica on Wednesday evening for their opening Champions League encounter and then have to avoid any European hangover when they welcome Chelsea to Old Trafford on Sunday. City also start their European campaign on Wednesday and for the first time will have to go to Fulham on Sunday after what should be a tough Champions League game against Napoli midweek. Neither Manchester club has had an easy start to the season, but we will be able to really judge their title credentials after their busy week.

After four games and four impressive wins United and City are sitting at the top of the pile, seemingly already well ahead of their rivals. But whilst I expect the title to eventually come down to a battle between the blue and red of Manchester, the overshadowed reasonably good starts of their competitors mean that this season should be a tightly run contest as London pitches itself against its Northern rivals.

Do you think anyone can challenge the Manchester clubs for the title this season? If you want to read more of my bite size, 140 character views and thoughts follow me on Twitter @jennyk5

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Article title: Can Manchester keep setting the pace?

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