Why EPL Will Come Down to Manchester City vs. Manchester United
The last two league champions finished the 2011-12 term level on points, but City just about edged the race with a last-gasp turnaround against QPR on the final day of the season.
Arsenal posed the closest challenge to the title challengers in the end, but finished a staggering 19 points behind second-place United.
Regardless of the summer break and the changes to team’s squads, it will ultimately be United or City that are once again crowned as winners, and here’s why.
In the brutal and unforgiving climates of the English top flight, injuries and illness are just two of the by-products that come package and parcel with playing in the division.
With that in mind, it’s perhaps more important for any Premier League side to have a deep and well-covered squad than in any other elite league.
As Southampton have shown already this campaign, even the new boys can challenge the league’s big guns, so each and every fixture in the 38-game calendar is a vital one.
However, the Red Devils and Citizens both have a collective strength, and all 25 players in their squads bring a considerable talent to the table.
United are already going through a defensively hairy patch in the centre of their defense, but have shown themselves to be a malleable beast, even putting Michael Carrick in the unnatural position.
Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini has used the millions at his disposal to craft a devastatingly strong unit that makes even Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko struggle to make the starting XI.
As if the entertainment of Premier League football wasn’t quite enough, Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini embarked on an off-pitch battle of epic proportions last season.
The two proved their management caliber in a series of mind games that was ultimately won by the Italian, although Ferguson has more than his fair share of accolades to prove his worth.
The Scot is certainly the most successful manager of his generation and is a stern contender for the greatest manager of all-time.
That being said, Mancini is staking his own claim upon managerial wizardry. Despite the fact that City’s team is a tactical mish-mash formed by years of exorbitant spending, a manger’s touch is still needed to make that outfit work as one.
Mancini won seven domestic titles as manager of Internazionale, and his 2011-12 Premier League victory is just one of the latest accolades achieved at the Etihad Stadium.
While there’s certainly other managing maestros in the Premier League, it’s uncertain as to how many of these tacticians could actually master the egos at Manchester City with the same success that Mancini has.
These two will face off in the league for the first time in December, in a match that will hold massive implications for whoever finishes as eventual victors.
Between them, Manchester United and Manchester City have won a total of seven trophies in the last three seasons, an average of just over two pieces of silverware per season.
With a record that some Arsenal fans would die for, it’s plain to see that both teams are used to the challenge for a title and the majority of each squad will be familiar with the journey that lies ahead.
That isn’t to disrespect the work of Chelsea, who had a highly successful 2011-12 season in terms of trophies, but just weren’t as much of a threat on the league scale.
However, while the Blues had a spike in the last campaign, both City and United have consistently challenged for silverware for some time now and are beginning to get used to the taste of victory.
The Citizens have a sense of self-entitlement due to the strength of their squad, whilst the Red Devils’ similar stance is down to their success as a club in the last two decades.
While their squads might be balanced across the board, both teams concerned are helped in their efforts by the presence of numerous superstar talents.
In short, both Manchester City and Manchester United have several standout performers in just about every part of the pitch that make their respective side look far more talented on paper.
In attack, the current Premier League champions have the likes of Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli amongst their ranks, while Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have proven their qualities as individual heroes on their own.
The list goes on for these two teams, so while David Silva is a Manchester City maestro, Shinji Kagawa is looking to be quite the dazzling playmaker. Vincent Kompany is the Citizens’ rock at the back, but Nemanja Vidic is responsible for more than a few clean sheets at Old Trafford.
Of course, the fact that these two clubs are vastly wealthy is in direct correlation with their star assets, but they still utilise those qualities well.
On the way to their first Premier League title, Manchester City went unbeaten on home turf, while second-place United finished the campaign with the second best home form.
Either through brilliant attack, staunch defence or a combination of the two, these two outfits were the very best when it came to performing in front of a home crowd.
Ninteen out of 38 games will always be played on a team’s home turf every season, offering an advantage to the natives that City and United tend to pounce on.
While their away form is similarly impressive, it’s the home games that really must be capitalised upon, and both Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium have become terrifying places to travel to in recent years.
Gulf in Competition
As aforementioned, Arsenal finished the 2011-12 season in third place, a desperate 19 points away from second place Manchester United.
Although Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham have all made considerable acquisitions this summer, the trio will all be accommodating their new arrivals in the coming months, and new faces always tend to take their time settling in.
That being said, it’s terribly unlikely that either Manchester City or Manchester United have dropped in standard enough to be caught up at this point.
On the other side of the spectrum, it’s just as unlikely that those who lagged so far behind last year have improved quite enough to close such a decisive gap.
Arsenal and Chelsea have both shown early signs of improvement, but will their challenges be as substantial once the Champions League and FA Cup enter their fiercer stages?
While foreign purchases are certainly a big part of any elite European club’s successes, both Ferguson and Mancini have managed to hold onto an English zest.
The former has always made youth production a massive priority at the Theatre of Dreams, and the likes of Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Robbie Brady and Tyler Blackett are just some of the latest homegrown youngsters making their way through the club.
The Red Devils also have the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick as native talent, so while other clubs are struggling to name players bred at the club, Manchester United thrive in the area.
Following several years of mass spending, Manchester City are now developing a stronger English contingent also.
This summer, the Premier League giants took up the option of bringing in Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell, both of whom could be England regulars.
Not to mention the more experienced representatives, like Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, James Milner and Gareth Barry, Mancini is managing to hold onto some of the faces more familiar to his club’s fans.