After 3 rounds of the new Premiership season a team from Manchester sits top of the table. That Manchester is represented at the top of the table is not unusual, that the team wears sky blue and not red, and plays at Eastlands and not Old Trafford is.
After Sundays 1-0 derby victory over United, City’s third straight win at the City of Manchester stadium over their more illustrious city rivals, has left Sven Goran Eriksons Manchester City top of the table with 3 straight wins and no goals conceded. So City’s Thai money infused revolution has taken off from the start, after many had predicted that they would need time to get so many expensive new players to gel, yet after this start, and particularly Sundays win, has left all in the blue half of Manchester fearing no one.
In truth Sundays win had more to do with United’s impotence in front of goal then City’s new brand of football, but on derby day no one will care how they won. Bianchi, Geovanni, Bojinov, Elano, Corluka, Gelson Fernandes, Garrido and Petrov have all come in with the new owners money, but it was two survivors of the old City, the City that couldn’t score at home last season, captain Richard Dunne and centre back partner Micah Richards, that won the Manchester derby for City.
The two at the back were immense all match, stopping every United attack, wave after wave, and protecting young Kasper Schmeicle in goal. The young keeper, son of United legend Peter, produced some fine saves, but looked nervous coming for crosses and trying to impose himself in the box. Dunne and Richards produced the type of performance that will give City fans optimism for the future of their club, that once the honeymoon is over, once City are no longer a surprise package with their newly bought team, once the new foreigners legs tire from the frenetic pace of the English game, they will still be able to grind out results. Micah Richards is perhaps the best defender at 19 the England have seen in a long time, better then John Terry was at 19, and if City can hold on to him, which perhaps may be easier considering the current investment, they may have the best defender in the Europe in the future. As brilliant as the two at the back were, and Richards, still on 19, showed strength and timing that no one of his age should possess, the truth is that in order for the defence or keeper to shine so brightly in a game the other team must be on top for long periods of the game. So it was on Sunday, when United, just as they did in their opening game against Reading, and on Wednesday against Portsmouth, dominated the game from start to finish, and couldn’t win.
United put their championship win last season down to their great start to the season, staying out on top for the entire season, while Chelsea faltered in December, and so will be worried about taking only 2 points from the available 9, their worst start to a Premiership season. While United will take heart from the fact that their 2 previous bad starts, in 1992 and 1998, ended with the league title in ’92, the inaugural Premier League season, and the treble in ’99. United have always been a team that starts slowly and takes control after January. However times are different now in that they may find themselves to far behind Chelsea, and unable to catch them. What United can perhaps look to, after the initial 3 games anyway, is that this season may be one of the most competitive in a long time. Liverpool have improved their squad, Arsenals young team have a years more experience then they did last year, Spurs have spent a lot to catch the top four, and the likes of Newcastle, West Ham, Aston Villa, Blackburn and City, all look capable of taking points from the top teams. Even the weaker teams in Fulham, Sunderland and Birmingham have spent a lot of money to try and ensure Premiership survival. Reading and Wigan, the two teams I picked to go down this season, along with Derby, who look way out of their depth and should go straight back down, have looked good in games to suggest that they will make a battle of it. So while Sir Alex stated that the 90 point mark is what should be aimed at to win the title, in truth the competitiveness of this season may bring that mark down a lot lower. That’s the sort of straw United will be clutching to. They’ve made things hard for themselves, but interesting for everyone else.
For now at least the blue half of Manchester can enjoy sitting on top the table, ahead of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, and most importantly Manchester United. Come the end of the season, they may not be quite so lucky.