LONDON: A gap has already opened up between Manchester City and United after only the opening two matchdays of the new Premier League season.
City flew top on goal difference with a 6-1 thrashing of bottom club Huddersfield while a poor United were flattered by ‘only’ a 4-2 defeat at Brighton which vindicated manager Jose Mourinho’s complaint that the club had let him down in the transfer market.
United’s manager wanted a new, top-class central defender. He was not ‘given’ one and Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly were exposed as weak links by the Seagulls.
They were not the only failures. Anthony Martial’s first outing of the season in place of injured Alexis Sanchez was poor and he was substituted after an hour. Paul Pogba offered one of those anonymous displays in which he spends much of his time blaming team-mates.
Before the game Mourinho revealed his anger at a television documentary about Manchester City’s title-win last season. The programme showed City had prepared shirts emblazoned: “We did it in the derby,” before last season’s game when they had hoped to win the title in their game against United. It fact City lost and had to wait.
Mourinho said: “You can buy top players but you can’t buy class.” Defeat at Brighton showed how United have not even been able to buy the players they need to challenge City.
Brighton went ahead with two goals in four minutes from Glenn Murray and Shane Duffy. United’s Romelu Lukaku claimed his first goal of the season but Brighton regained the lead just before half-time with a Pascal Gross penalty. Pogba reduced the arrears from a stoppage time penalty but too late for United to rescue a point.
Worries for Wagner
Last season manager David Wagner’s defensive planning helped earn Huddersfield a 0-0 draw at Manchester City. Not this time.
Manager Pep Guardiola preferred to use his nimble little ball-players such as David Silva and Bernardo Silva and two strikers rather than one forward supported by the pace of Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez. City were assisted by Hudderfield’s poor defending. At one time they threatened a repeat of the last time they scored a home league goal against Huddersfield and won 10-1 in 1986-87.
However City showed some mercy and scored ‘only’ six. Sergio Aguero scored the first hat-trick of the season to become the league’s five-goal leading scorer. The others came from Gabriel Jesus, David Silva and Terence Kongolo (own goal). Defender Jan Stojkovic scored for Huddersfield on his club debut.
Guardiola said: “Last season Huddersfield played five at the back so we decided we would play with two strikers. I have never seen Aguero him like this since I was here. He is in an incredible condition with the ball and without the ball.”
Attacking leftback Benjamin Mendy was also one of City’s most creative players. Huddersfield had no answer to his skill and pace and defence-splitting passes.
Wagner said: “Obviously it was a disappointing result even if I say it was because of the top quality City have shown today. We were second best. We could not cope with their pace. But we will not be driven away because of these first two defeats. Now the season starts for us with the home game against Cardiff.”
The Terriers lost their first game by 3-0 at home to Chelsea and are bottom of the table on goal difference.
Watford won 3-1 at Burnley in the day’s other game.