Monday, September 21, 2020

Can Man United and Man City Challenge For The Premier League?

Premier League football is back. The first weekend of the new season has taken place. We saw Leeds, in their first Premier League game since May 2004, take on Premier League Champions Liverpool and give them as good as they got in their 4-3 loss at Anfield.

We saw West Bromwich Albion and Fulham being given a harsh reality of being back jin the Premier League after their losses to Leicester and Arsenal respectively. After being given time off, the two Manchester sides are back in action.

The Premier League gave both Manchester clubs time off due to their progression in Europe. Manchester United play on Saturday evening at home to Crystal Palace, meanwhile Manchester City face a Monday night away trip to Molineux when they play Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

Wolves beat Man City home and away in the Premier League last season.
Wolves beat Man City home and away in the Premier League last season.

Manchester United had a brilliant second half of the Premier League season, beating Leicester to the Champions League places on the final day. After two consecutive Premier League titles, Manchester City finished second place in 2019/20 and 18 points behind Liverpool. Can either side challenge for the title and bring back the glory times?

Manchester United last won the Premier League in the 2012/13 season, which was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season at the club before he retired. The fact of reality is that the Red Devils have not looked close since. They finished second in 2017-18 but were 19 points off Manchester City. 

Talking of the blue half of Manchester, they accumulated 198 points in the 2017/18 and then 2018/19 season. They had a disappointing season by their standards, being second fiddle to Liverpool ever since their 3-1 defeat at Anfield in November last season. 

TOPSHOT – Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (C) celebrates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 10, 2019. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Manchester United have seen results transform since the January acquisition of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon. On Christmas Day in 2019, they were 14 points behind Leicester, which was reduced to 11 after Leicester’s 4-0 loss to Liverpool the next day.

As bad a reflection as this shows on Leicester’s 2020 slump, it also shows how impressive Manchester United were in 2020. They did tire towards the end of the season but this may have been partly due to the congestion of fixtures as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. They now have a lot less of a congested set of fixtures and Champions League football to look forward to.

Can Man United once again challenge for the Premier League?

Manchester City will be a wounded animal after losing their Premier League crown to Liverpool. They will be eager to get back to winning the title in this upcoming season. Talks of Lionel Messi going to the Etihad were strong after Messi’s intention of leaving Barcelona.

His U-turn quashed those rumours but Manchester City will still be a team to challenge. They played arguably the best football since the June restart and they have the current reigning PFA Player of the Year in midfielder Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian superstar was exceptional for the Citizens all year long and was hands down the best player since the restart. 

De Bruyne with the PFA award after an impressive Premier League season.

For me, Manchester United have a brilliant attack but have not addressed their defensive issues. There is still time left before the transfer window ends and they may still go out and get a defender but as it stands, I feel that this defensive issue will be Manchester United’s downfall in 2020/21. I still believe that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will finish in the top four. However, I do not think that they have the same defensive strengths of Man City or Liverpool. 

They also have a problem in the goalkeeping position. David De Gea’s form has dropped off significantly since the 2018 World Cup. They now have Dean Henderson back from his impressive two year loan spell at Sheffield United. Who will they start in goal. There is a saying in the NFL that if you have two quarterbacks you have none. This motto can also been applied in this situation. Having the uncertainty around goalkeeper is not going to do Manchester United any favours and they need to choose their number one. 

WATFORD, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 22: David De Gea of Manchester United looks dejected after failing to save a penalty which resulted in the second goal for Watford scored by Troy Deeney of Watford (not pictured) during the Premier League match between Watford FC and Manchester United at Vicarage Road on December 22, 2019 in Watford, United Kingdom. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

De Gea will need to look over his shoulder as if he makes mistakes, then Henderson could be picked as the number one and De Gea may never get into the first team again. However, even if this happens, it is not a guarantee that Henderson will succeed. The expectation at Old Trafford is a lot different to that at Bramall Lane. 

Manchester City have signed Nathan Ake from Bournemouth for £40 million as well as Ferran Torres for £20.87 million but have they signed enough?

They may put all their focus on the Champions League rather than the Premier League, which is something Liverpool may take advantage of. As a Liverpool fan, the sad reality is that the team has not been in good form since the restart without fans. This may stretch on to this season, especially with the smaller break between seasons that we have seen in 2020 and the new season starting just 7 weeks after the previous one, as opposed to the three month break we normally see between Premier League seasons.

For me, I still think that Manchester City will go on to win the Premier League this season. I feel that it is so hard for teams in the modern day to retain titles and Manchester City will be keen to get back their crown.

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