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On the back of Sam’s most recent article ‘Let’s Just Give City The Title Now Shall We?’, it seems Manchester City will run away in first place and let the remaining top 6 to squabble amongst themselves. But I believe we will get to see a title race, and I think it will begin with a Man Utd win this weekend. Here are my reasons as to why Man Utd can still win the Premier League:
1. Points gap isn’t huge
This depends on the result from Old Trafford on Sunday, but the gap could be cut to just 5 points. In front of a home crowd that’s been used to dominating Manchester for years, the Red Devils will be relishing a chance to silence their noisy neighbours. City’s run of 14 wins out of 15 games is phenomenal, but it shows how well United have played this season that they’ve managed to stay within touching distance of the leaders, despite some questionable performances along the way.
2. They still have to play at the Etihad
If anyone knows how to get a result at a big rival club it’s Jose Mourinho; evidence being in United’s performance at the Emirates. Whilst Arsenal seemed to ‘dominate’ the game, United deployed their tactics early on with aggressive pressing and an efficient display that ensured the match was won inside 10 minutes. Very few teams will cause United the kind of havoc Arsenal did, so whilst City are a better attacking unit, the test at the Emirates was a nice warm up for United who will learn from those mistakes, despite taking 3 points.
3. City have tough away games
Man City have blown Arsenal and Liverpool away at the Etihad. They even outplayed Chelsea in their own backyard. However, they do have some very tricky games still to come. Trips to Goodison (undoubtedly a tougher team with Allardyce as manager), the Emirates, Wembley, Anfield and yet to host other big sides means there’s still plenty of banana skins in Guardiola’s way before he can lift that Premier League title.
4. Can City be worked out?
Unlike the mind-blowing performances we saw going into November, Man City have scraped over the line in their last three Premier League games, and even suffered defeat to Shaktar Donetsk in midweek. Whilst we would never want to see City change their playing style, perhaps an element of unpredictability is needed to win games in a different manner. However, I have to praise their willingness to play the same way in whatever situation they find themselves in; it’s admirable and for now it has worked – but for how much longer will it?
5. Mourinho vs Guardiola
I get the impression that Mourinho knows how and when to switch off from football. He’s often done charity work and brought a light-heartedness to press conferences (when things go well for him). Whilst Mourinho’s behaviour is also bordering on the unacceptable at times, it is still very calculated. Guardiola is quite the opposite. We know his match preparation is meticulous, but his match demeanour is quite the opposite. His reaction to Nathan Redmond’s performance is a moment of madness he’s claimed he sometimes can’t control. Guardiola is obsessed with winning – a fantastic quality – though Mourinho is simply just used to it, especially in England. With Guardiola desperate to win trophies in England, could his obsession perhaps derail the Citizens? City started last season brilliantly playing a 4-3-3. It all went downhill when Guardiola started striving for perfection so much that a change in formation and constant tweaking only confused his team, who ended up having a very underwhelming season. This season doesn’t look to be going the same way, but we have seen it happen before, especially with a Manchester City side who traditionally lose interest when things don’t go their way. Mourinho is used to title challenges in England, and that could give him an edge when chasing his rivals.
Whilst City have set an unbelievably high standard for rivals to match, I don’t think they’re the perfect unit just yet and Man Utd will have the world supporting them in a hope we’ll get to see an exciting title race going into the second half of the season. But how can Utd beat City?
If they deploy their 3 at the back system effectively, a system City have struggled to break down in the last year, and don’t look to just park the bus, there’s no reason why Man Utd can’t walk away with all three points. The best thing United have going into this game is a group of players who will find losing to Man City absolutely unacceptable. The likes of David De Gea, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young and home-grown Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford are used to being the dominant force in Manchester and these players will give it their all come kick off on Sunday.
Mourinho will try and kill the game, and rightly so, it gives United the best chance of winning that way. Whilst I’m not expecting the exciting game everyone thinks we’re going to get, I think we’re going to witness an incredibly fascinating encounter in which maybe even the great Guardiola would take just a point from.