That&aposs not to say City have been bad to start the new campaign. Pep Guardiola&aposs side won six games on the spin out of the gate and it took them until February to win four consecutive matches last term. Considering how it ended, this year certainly bodes well.
But despite the victories City were far from their best. There is enough sensational quality in the squad that there is always going to be moments of brilliance in practically every game but, as a collective, things weren&apost quite clicking.
It&aposs completely understandable as to why, given half of the core starting XI that was so crucial to the treble triumph was unavailable. Captain Ilkay Gundogan has left, Kevin De Bruyne managed just 20 minutes on the opening day before being ruled out until 2024 and John Stones, Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish all had injury problems.
Add several new signings coming in and having to get used to a radical new style of play – and one of those, Mateo Kovacic, getting injured as well – it&aposs a wonder City weren&apost even worse. Many lesser sides would not have been able to gain 18 points out of 18 but City just kept on ticking.
That was until the straw of Rodri&aposs suspension broke the camel&aposs back. The perfect start unravelled as the crucial Spaniard missed three games following his foolish red card. All three of the matches were lost. No tears were shed of elimination from the Carabao Cup, a match he wouldn&apost have played in, but back-to-back defeats to Wolves and title challengers Arsenal were far from ideal.
The international break came at the perfect time for City to recuperate and get their injured players back fit. Since returning to action, they have been back to winning ways. Victories over Brighton and Young Boys weren&apost exactly convincing but then up stepped Manchester United to give a real confidence booster.
The disorganised and undisciplined rabble the Blues encountered at Old Trafford hardly made things difficult but City still put on a brutal clinic. Bernardo once again made the Theatre of Dreams his personal dance floor as he weaved through the opposition with ease. Grealish enjoyed his best game for months with a lively attacking display, Erling Haaland got back amongst the important goals and Phil Foden showed his class.
But most importantly of all, the whole side looked back to normal. Stones completed 90 minutes for the first time this season, meaning Guardiola could revert back to the tactical set-up that worked wonders last season and everyone looked much more comfortable in their roles. Additionally, in Bernardo, Rodri has a new partner capable of fulfilling the role Gundogan did so exquisitely.
For the first time since May, City looked back to their best, and it couldn&apost have come at a better time. Though there is another international break in between, the big fixtures will soon start coming thick and fast.
The Blues can almost certainly guarantee qualification for the Champions League knockout stages with a win at home to Young Boys next week, giving them two dead rubbers in a hectic calendar and then after that they will travel to face Chelsea. Upon the return to club football, there will then be a massive week of action in which they welcome Liverpool and Tottenham to the Etihad.