The first fixtures of the 2012/13 Premier League season reminded us exactly why we love the English top flight. Packed with outstanding goals, cards of both colours, the return of passionate fans and a wide exhibit of new signings, the intensity of weekly, competitive club football returned for the first time since May 13th; a date which will remain in fans’ memories for a very long time.
Everything down to the wooden seats, John Motson and steak pies made us feel normal again, giving a point to weekend afternoons. The treasured feel of overpriced tickets returned the buzz and click of the turnstiles and various seas of club colours encircling stadia, spilling out of fish and chip shops and public houses. The programmes, the new kits, Gary Lineker. Routine and structure was finally, thankfully resolved.
In the north of the country, two significant cities, split in to half, have their own story to tell. Comparisons, contrasts and unpredictable events draw the football clubs together at rare intervals whilst setting them eternally apart.
In Manchester, the deep red and sky blue divide is growing increasingly intense. With Manchester City’s recent heart-stopping title win in May and Manchester United’s untimely failure, the Red Devils’ fans are rightly concerned at the realistic prospect of their rivals dominating English football for the foreseeable future. Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City squad are a more developed and therefore experienced and powerful side compared to this time last year; and overthrowing this force will be one Scotsman’s greatest task yet.
As with Chelsea and Arsenal before them, Sir Alex Ferguson faces a new competitor; this time a lot closer to home and the United fans’ day to day lives. However, will this next challenge prove too exerting for one of the world’s most triumphant managers? Whether it is the media’s preliminary dramatisation or the on-pitch feuds, the heated rivalry between the two clubs is no secret.
Previously, both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho have buckled, faltered and returned to the shadows as Ferguson’s intimidating, so-called “mind games” wreak apparent psychological havoc in the enemies’ camp, resulting in a fairytale-like ending for the Red Devils as they return to the peak of English football.
Undoubtedly, Ferguson has his sights set on a twentieth title for the club he has managed for nearly 26 years. The purchase and introduction of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund appears to have envious potential due to the sheer ability of the attacking, creative midfielder. Additionally, a certain Robin van Persie’s extremely high-profile £24m move from the unpredictable Arsenal sparked a supposed revolution in aid of tearing the Premier League crown from the overwhelmingly ruthless Manchester City. Although, an uninspiring 1-0 defeat to Everton in their opening match of the 2012/13 campaign raised the questionable eyebrows of some.
Coming at it from a different angle, whether or not Manchester City can restrain the resilient United from stealing their long-awaited throne is another question. On paper, the Sky Blues should cross the finish line head and shoulders above the rest; Sir Alex Ferguson will have his own say in that.
However, City’s first match of the Premier League season rattled them as Nigel Adkins’ Southampton were marginally defeated 3-2; nevertheless, even on the opening weekend of the campaign, champions are constructed of mentally and physically strong attributes. By coming from behind, Roberto Mancini’s side demonstrated exactly that.
As well as the aim of retaining the title, improvement in the Champions League is imperative for City to improve their European and worldwide status. However, there is a niggling, dark thought knocking at the doors of the Etihad stadium.
Their frequency to spend heavily is infamous; although, this summer, players have been turning a move to East Manchester down due to an almost guaranteed lack of playing time: Mancini’s rotation (because of the depth of his squad) is becoming notorious. Robin van Persie and Daniele de Rossi are two names who favoured not to join the Premier League Champions, despite the obvious amount of money offered.
With a spine of Hart, Kompany, Toure and Agüero (once he has recovered from the knee injury) and various interchangeable positions surrounding those players which are only ever filled with quality, it will be an interesting season for an accumulation of reasons for Manchester City.