It sure looks like Man U and Man Shitty are heads above the rest of the EPL. It is too early to make any pronouncements.
Let’s see how the season shakes out first.
The much-anticipated showdown between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho appears to have dawned at long last. After five assignments, the record is identical: four wins, one draw, sixteen goals scored, two conceded.
It is early days, of course, and Chelsea are within one victory of the two Manchester clubs while Tottenham also lie in wait but there is an unmistakable sense that the major players in the title race this season will come from the North West.
Here Sportsmail outlines the respective strengths and potential weaknesses of Guardiola’s City and Mourinho’s United…
Both sides are now blessed with a staggering depth of quality in attacking positions. The creative forces such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Kevin De Bruyne are glistening early on, while Romelu Lukaku and Sergio Aguero are punishing opponents in brutal fashion.
Guardiola was able to introduce Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan from the bench at Watford while Anthony Martial, Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard influenced the flow of the game for Mourinho as United ran riot late on at Old Trafford.
The two teams take their opponents apart in different manners. City want complete dominance and on the days it all comes together, it is truly magnificent – perhaps the highest level of football we have seen in this league since Arsenal’s Invincibles.
United, meanwhile, are more pragmatic. They are prepared to bide their time before pulling away late on, as they have done against West Ham, Swansea, Leicester and again on Sunday against Everton.
The remaining question mark about City is whether their defence will hold out and if Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones can forge a strong partnership.
Vincent Kompany, sadly, is back on the treatment table. Over the past week, which has seen City score 15 and concede 0 in three games against Liverpool, Feyenoord and Watford, the pair have been strong, allowing City’s opponents a total of five shots on target.
Yet many opponents will feel a vulnerability is there to be exposed, particularly in behind Otamendi. Some City fans may also be concerned by the dependence on Fernandinho, whose role in front of the back four is so essential to offer some semblance of balance to this top-heavy City side. Much will depend on Gundogan’s return, particularly as Yaya Toure appears to have a reduced role this season.
United’s concern will be in the left back position, where Mourinho has now trialled Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young. All three have their own virtues but none appears capable of making the position their own. Luke Shaw is close to a return and Mourinho must hope he finally discovers a degree of consistency after a hellish period of injuries.
United will be hopeful of ending this period of fixtures top of the pile ahead of the international break. United travel to Southampton next week, who are finding goals hard to come by at their own ground, before hosting Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace.
City, for their part, have Palace at home next week before visiting Chelsea. Guardiola spoke on Saturday of his side having taken ‘forward steps’ at the start of this season but also insisted a visit to Stamford Bridge would prove the acid test of their credentials.
We know that Mourinho is the master of navigating a title race. It usually follows the pattern of a fast start and every time a Mourinho team has been top at Christmas, they have gone to win the title. It’s happened seven times.
Guardiola, of course, has lifted La Liga titles and the Bundesliga but the Premier League has its unique quirks late on in a season and Mourinho’s experience of three titles with Chelsea may help United over the line.
Seven United players have previously won a Premier League title compared to five at City but there is no shortage of domestic title winners abroad in either squad. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return will give United further high-pressure know-how.
What about the challengers?
Some caution is needed for both United and City. United were top of the league after three games last season but slumming it in sixth place by December.
City, meanwhile, won their first six but then only three of their next nine in the top-flight, including defeats by Chelsea, Leicester and Tottenham as teams came to terms with their way of playing.
This offers hope for the chasing pack and Antonio Conte will remember that his side made a sluggish start last season before embarking on a storming run of form in the autumn months to pull clear of their rivals. Tottenham will also feel they can match the top three but must correct their Wembley anxiety.
Arsenal, however, do not appear equipped for a title race and it would be a surprise to see them level on points with City or United at any stage this season. Liverpool have not fixed the defensive issues that derailed last season and Everton’s aspirations of significant forward steps appear doomed already.