Manchester United have clearly been the dominant force in English football over the last 20 years. Now that they have been joined at the top of the game by their noisy neighbours, the shift in the balance of power from the city of Liverpool to the city of Manchester appears complete. Liverpool and Everton commanded the 1980’s. Can the two Manchester clubs now emulate their achievements?
In United’s case, it seems fair to suggest that they will sustain their lofty status for as long as Sir Alex Ferguson postpones his retirement at least. It’s curious to think back to last season and recall many pundits suggesting that this was the weakest title winning squad of Ferguson’s reign. Compare those judgements with the rapturous plaudits they have received so far this season. There has been another quiet evolution within the side that has seen Smalling, Cleverley and Welbeck playing a greater role as Sir Alex puts his faith in youth once again. This has been backed up by the purchase of De Gea, Young and the outstanding Phil Jones , who looks worth every penny of his hefty transfer fee.
If there is an Achilles heel in the side, it is in the central midfield area. Fletcher has been sidelined and Carrick is inconsistent. So far this season, Anderson has emerged as the player United hoped he would become with some positive performances. However, there is a lot of pressure on him and Cleverley to deliver the goods every week. Missing out on Wesley Sneijder in the summer was blow and Ferguson may have to consider other options in the January window.
Overall, the squad looks deep enough and has sufficient quality to warrant being title favourites again this year. Perhaps most important is the emphasis on youth. The average age of the team that demolished Arsenal 8-2 was just 23. This bodes well for the club’s success to continue for some time yet.
Meanwhile, at Manchester City , the embarrassment of riches assembled under Sheikh Mansour’s ownership have begun to gel into formidable contenders for United’s crown. This is Mancini’s team now, a fact underlined by his handling of the recent Tevez controversy. His side has a potent combination of power, grace and youth. This season, their attacking play has been of the highest quality and in Aguero, Dzeko, Balotelli they now have strikers with the ability to profit from the creative talents of the likes of Silva and Nasri. Combine this with last season’s stingiest defence and you can see why City are now not only United’s nearest rivals in terms of locality but also results.
Manchester City now have more cohesion on the pitch rather than being simply a collection of talented individuals and Mancini must be applauded for achieving this. Now the challenge will be to maintain harmony off the pitch following recent events and also balance the competing challenges of the domestic fixtures with their Champions League campaign. It seems that potentially the only obstacle to the club’s continued rise will be discord within their own ranks.
So the foundations of the new Manchester empire appear to be well set and rivals from London and Merseyside are currently struggling to keep pace and challenge their pre-eminence.
Article courtesy of Paul Gould from This is Futbol