Manchester City’s 4-0 win over Newcastle concluded the opening weekend of Premier League fixtures by sending them top of the pile, but it was arguably Manchester United who did most to prove their credentials for title glory in 2013/14.
Manchester City – 7/4 favourites
Punters had to wait longest for what was, at face value, the most impressive performance of the title-disputing trio, with City showing an improved intensity off the ball under Manuel Pellegrini that choked the life out of Newcastle.
However, whilst their performance was visually impressive, they’d beaten a Magpies side that enjoyed a distinctly underwhelming pre-season by at least two goals in the clubs’ last five meetings and the result mirrored the tally of the sides Etihad clash last term.
Furthermore these were visitors robbed of midfield lynchpin Yohan Cabaye hours before the game, thanks to some increasingly desperate transfer flailing in his direction from Arsenal.
Cabaye’s importance to the side is underlined by the fact that they won 38 percent of the matches he played in last term as opposed to just 14 percent of those for which he was absent.
Manchester United – 14/5
After a pre-season which taught us virtually nothing as to how well they were adapting to life under David Moyes, a clash with a Swansea side who had conceded just a single goal during seven warm-up wins and thrashed Malmo 4-0 on their return to competitive action looked like a complacently discarded banana-skin in the path of the defending champions.
With this in mind the manner in which United soaked up the Swans pressure – at a ground where they struggled last term – before punishing them ruthlessly was impressive and suggests that they’ve lost none their ability to find a way to transcend their opposition in passing from the hands of one Scot to another.
Perhaps the one cause for pondering was the inclusion of Ryan Giggs in a behind-the-striker role. If the Welshman – whose age precludes any chance of him playing every game this term – is the first choice in that position, then it suggests that Moyes has little faith in the likes of Shinji Kagawa who are more naturally at home in the role.
Chelsea – 21/10
As with City, the opposition that provided the canvas for Chelsea’s sketches of superiority mean that less firm conclusions can be drawn than from United’s victory, but the Blues’ 2-0 swatting of Hull was still ominous in its own way.
Mostly that is because it was so reminiscent of the kind of wins that became their trade mark during Jose Mourinho’s first, title-winning tenure, were his minions were so murderously adept at putting games to sleep.
Hull were only the 12th highest scoring team in the Championship last season and it remains to be seen how well their defence – occasionally shaky last season – stands up to the infinitely more serious examinations the new campaign will bring.