Manchester City’s 4-1 demolition of crosstown rivals United at the weekend, was a game that won’t be forgotten in a hurry, whoever you support. It was a match where City dominated almost every conceivable facet of play, and only Wayne Rooney’s stunning freekick saved United from total embarrassment on the scoreline. Yet, it must be noted that this has hardly been the norm for Man City this season. Aside from an equally impressive destruction of Newcastle in the opening weekend, the blue half of Manchester had consistently struggled before the derby. So does their fantastic performance against last year’s champions mean that Manuel Pellegrini’s have found top gear?
Well, if City have hit their best form, it has somewhat come out of the blue (no pun intended). After the opening weekend of the season, they travelled to newly promoted Cardiff and were made to look for very foolish and vulnerable by Frasier Campbell and co. After that they secured a pretty unconvincing victory over Hull, where the visiting Tigers matched them stride for stride through most of the 90 minutes. This was followed by a 0-0 draw at Stoke, where City could easily have left with nothing. In fact, if you discount the Newcastle game, their only polished performance of the season prior to the derby came the Tuesday before in the Czech Republic.
Yet now they have impressive back-to-back wins on two large stages – away in the Champions League and the Manchester derby. So, will this form continue? One thing is certain; if it does no one will be able to pass it off on their schedule. This weekend they face what could be a tricky trip to Villa Park, before facing arguably the best side in Europe on Wednesday – the mighty Bayern Munich. Three days later they will host an up-and-coming Everton side. After the international break they will travel to West Ham, CSKA Moscow and Chelsea all within a week.
During such a hectic schedule the most important thing for any side is squad depth, and City have arguably the deepest squad in the world. When you consider that an XI of City’s substitutes and reserves would feature the likes of Richards, Lescott, Clichy, Demichelis, Rodwell, Javi Garcia and Jovetic, one struggles to see rotation of the squad being a problem.
One well documented obstacle to success that has been pointed out is City’s defence. Joe Hart is clearly not in his best form this season, and the team can no longer back on him to consistently make top-notch saves, or even confidently handle every cross. While the young Matija Nastasic is developing into a solid centre back, it will be some time before he is a dominant force in the Premier League. If captain Kompany goes down again, things look shaky.
Ultimately though, City’s form and fate really is in their own hands. They have all the talent in the world, a calculated and tactical manager who won’t have Mancini-esque meltdowns, as well as a bucket load of confidence from their derby heroics. Demolishing Wigan 5-0 in the League Cup was another small but important step on the path to gaining better form and consistency. Expect Man City ride this wave of confidence to a series of strong results and attractive performances both at home and in Europe. They will need to be wary though, because if the unassuming likes of Cardiff City and Hull can cause them trouble, then every team will fancy their chances of an upset.