Manchester City are setting the pace again just how they like it… Pep Guardiola’s side continue to turn it on in style with the Premier League title race likely to go down to the wire
- Manchester City continued to set the pace in the Premier League on Saturday
- The reigning champions outclassed Watford for 90 minutes at Vicarage Road
- Pep Guardiola’s side leapfrogged Liverpool to go top of the Premier League
- Raheem Sterling opened the scoring, before Bernardo Silva netted a brace
The 14.24 out of London Euston, heading towards Northampton, was not a football train. Its first stop was Watford Junction, but the carriages were populated by shoppers and families. Vicarage Road was not their destination.
But there was one man, kitted in a vintage red and black Manchester City away shirt, with two large bottles of Staropramen lager partially supped and mobile phone in hand. He kept refreshing his live score app.
The train left the station just as the dramatic events at the London Stadium concluded.
Bernardo Silva helped Manchester City to a routine 3-1 victory against Watford on Saturday
The Portugal international netted City’s second goal to put the game out of Watford’s reach
The internet caught up. The result was in. A knee bashed a table, and out came a loud, disbelieving shout of, ‘West Ham have won!’. A lady opposite, her scarf doubling up as a mask, jolted nonplussed. The City fan carried on, giddily gabbing to nobody in particular, just filling the air.
He FaceTimed a friend who supported Liverpool. They briefly jousted, playfully. To watch him was to witness how much this absorbing title race is gripping those involved.
It is consuming fans. A proper race. The first one for three years, really. After Chelsea’s defeat on Saturday lunch time, Liverpool played one of their hits from 2018-19 at Wolves, a late Divock Origi strike to rescue victory.
City then gave a rendition of one of theirs from that relentless season, too, steamrolling Watford, with the scoreline not reflecting their dominance.
Pep Guardiola’s players attempted to steer clear of watching their Liverpool counterparts that year, only tuning in when they looked like dropping points.
As they pressed the remote, Jurgen Klopp’s side always found a way of winning. It became a running joke around the Etihad. The next six months look like following a similar pattern and, while Guardiola was right last week in saying that the same questions — ‘could this be the most exciting season ever?’ — crop up every year, he will know the quality of all three teams raises the prospect of a photo finish.
For the first time this season, City lead. Only by a point over Liverpool but they are hugely adept at setting the pace towards the midway stage.
Their five consecutive wins is the longest streak anybody has managed thus far and the way in which they are performing feels like the purest version of Guardiola’s City since he arrived in 2016.
Watford were not even allowed to contemplate an upset. Some fans left at half-time. ‘City is the only game of the season that I can’t be bothered with,’ one said, with slightly more colourful language. Fair enough: City have 36 goals in their last 10 games against Watford.
‘We know what our job is and we can’t really be watching what the others are doing,’ City’s Raheem Sterling said. ‘We just need to keep working away. I thought we did that brilliantly.’
Sterling is back among the goals, turning in stellar displays every week, while Bernardo Silva seems locked in a fight with Mo Salah over who will clean up at the individual award ceremonies when all this is finished. Silva epitomises the fluidity of this team, one that effectively starts with four strikers but allows him to do as he pleases.
Midfielder Raheem Sterling gave City the lead heading past goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann
Sterling celebrates as City took the lead at Vicarage Road inside four minutes on Saturday
Watford ran Chelsea close in the week but City, as goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann put it, are a ‘different kettle of fish’.
Bachmann left with immense credit, sparing home blushes at times — particularly during a relentless opening 20 minutes when City ought to have celebrated at least four times.
‘I don’t think there is another footballing team like City in the world,’ Bachmann said.
‘Their movement on and off the ball is incredible. (A team like) Man City only exist once, the way they play. They’re certainly the toughest to play against. You tell me, what can you do?
‘These aren’t the games that define our season. You can view them as better training sessions. We’re obviously trying to win but we’ve got a new manager trying to implement his style and pressing. This was a rehearsal for what is coming over the next weeks.’