Manchester teams continue to look a cut above the rest of the league
Five thoughts from
City is an overpowering machine. On Saturday, Roberto Mancini rested four players, including Edin Dzeko who had scored four in City's last league game. City wasted a penalty kick and hit the woodwork but it still cruised past Wigan, 3-0, with a hat trick by Sergio Agüero. City is still City. There are quirks in the club DNA. Strange things happen there. The departure of Garry Cook, the CEO, essentially for being a thoughtless jerk, only days after being patted on the back by this column, rather illustrates the point. For now though, the engine is humming.
Meanwhile, Ferguson remains impressively adaptable. Responding to changed rules, injuries, the talent available and, perhaps, Barcelona, he's suddenly made his team much younger. At 26, Ashley Young was the third-oldest member of the starting lineup on Saturday. If you were picking a composite team from the City and United elevens on Saturday, you would end up with more City players. United doesn't dominate midfield in the way City does. United's defense can look distracted. For now, it doesn't matter. United's youthful team may have an unproven look, but the club is the reigning champion and it is winning like a champion. United's attack seems capable of ripping opposing defenses open almost every time it attacks. It's winning easily. On Saturday, it was three goals up after 25 minutes at Bolton and both teams knew the game was over. United went on to win, 5-0. Wayne Rooney scored another hat trick. Last year's young star, Javier Hernandez, only starting because Danny Welbeck is injured, scored twice. City has scored 15 goals in four games and it can't keep up with United. This is a frightening team.
The Manchester teams will stutter at some point. One, or both, may go through a long rough patch. But the pace they are setting suggests that it will take well over 90 points to win the title, which pretty much reduces the title field to three teams.
Spurs started the day last, but had only played twice, against the two Manchester clubs, and its victory was more impressive. It beat Wolves, a team that has given it fits in recent years, 2-0 at Molineux. Its two big late summer signings combined for the opening goal. Scott Parker, who generally had a pretty ragged afternoon, set up Emmanuel Adebayor. The striker scored neatly. Jermain Defoe, who, from his body language, likes playing with the hulking Adebayor, gave another sign that he is emerging from his long funk with the second. This was a confident step in the right direction.
Arsenal, meanwhile, was lucky but not good as it beat Swansea, 1-0, at the Emirates. Michel Vorm, the Swansea keeper, presented Andrei Arshavin with the only goal when he hit fullback Angel Rangel in the back with a throw. Arshavin did not miss the empty net. Swansea, yet to score in the Premier League, showed why. Even when Wojciech Szczesny, perhaps showing solidarity with Vorm, dropped the ball in the dying seconds, Danny Graham scooped his shot over the open goal from five yards. Maybe the victory will give Arsenal's morale the boost it needs. But at the moment, it looks behind even Spurs. They can hope Liverpool or Chelsea collapses, but, realistically, the two North London clubs are battling for fifth place.