There are still five months of the season to go, but the title race is over – I do not see anyone stopping Manchester City from winning the Premier League now.
It was not just the result the leaders got at Old Trafford on Sunday that was significant, it was the way they got it too. They were totally dominant, and fully deserved their 2-1 win.
City are 11 points clear at the top of the table and at the moment they are streets ahead of Manchester United – and everyone else. I don’t see anyone catching them from here.
They have dropped only two points so far, so I just don’t see them losing four or five games between now and the end of the season, which is what it would take for them to be caught.
United are their closest rivals and had looked like being the team most likely to challenge them, but I was very disappointed with their gameplan and their performance.
Jose Mourinho’s side took the game to City for a couple of minutes to get their equaliser at the end of the first half, and also had a chance to nick a point right at the end when Ederson made a fantastic double save from Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata.
Otherwise, they were short of ideas and did not offer very much at all.
|Biggest leads after 16 Premier League games – and what happened|
|Season||Team||Pts||Pts ahead*||Final position|
|*The team in second may not have played 16 games at that time|
‘As a team, United did not do enough’
People have been talking for a while now about whether there has been a power shift in Manchester, and on Sunday it was there for everyone to see.
For United to play the way they did, sitting deep and kicking it long with City controlling play, showed how times have changed at Old Trafford.
As a team, I don’t think United did enough to make that gameplan work. They allowed City to play without pressing them, and gave them far too much time on the ball all over the pitch.
I know City scored their goals from set-pieces but United could not get near them in open play for long spells either.
Pep Guardiola’s side were passing the ball around them and, when they lost the ball, they worked so hard to get it back quickly.
United did not have anywhere to go, and often ended up hitting it long just to clear their lines.
That played into City’s hands because, up the pitch, Lukaku was getting nothing out of Nicolas Otamendi and the rest of the City defence, so Guardiola’s side were soon back on the attack.
‘Lukaku was nowhere near strong enough’
I have some sympathy for Lukaku because of the number of long balls that were being pumped up to him, particularly in the first half when the distance between him and his midfield was huge.
Even if he had been able to bring the ball down and hold it up – which he wasn’t – it was asking a lot for him to do that for long enough for any support to arrive.
But he still could have done a lot better at leading the line because his general play was poor. He did not run the channels and he did not offer any movement behind the City defence.
On top of that, he was bullied by Otamendi throughout the game and was nowhere near strong enough when balls were played up to him.
As a centre-forward, when you are going head-to-head with a centre-half like that, you want to know that you have come off at the end of the game having won your battle with him.
Sadly for Lukaku, Otamendi dominated him rather than the other way around.
The Belgium striker still had one chance right at the end of the match that could have earned his side a point and rectified the rest of his performance if he had taken it – but he missed.
Yes, it was a good stop by Ederson to deny him but a striker with Lukaku’s pedigree should be scoring that sort of opportunity.
What has happened to Lukaku’s form?
There were question marks over Lukaku’s record against big clubs before he joined United in the summer, and those doubts are not going to go away until he improves his performances in those games.
He has now faced the rest of last season’s top six without finding the net and it can hardly help his situation that, whoever the opposition, the goals have dried up in the past couple of months.
After making such a prolific start to the season with 11 goals in his first 10 games for United, since the end of September he has only scored two in his past 14.
It has been suggested that having a fit-again Zlatan Ibrahimovic back in contention and after his place in the United attack could be proving to be a distraction and affecting his form – but I’m not having that. Lukaku should be the main man and offering more.
I have not even mentioned the part he played in both of City’s goals, but it was an especially bad mistake that led to Otamendi’s winner – and that summed up his day.
City have quality and strength in depth
City have now won 14 league games in a row. That is an amazing achievement and they keep on showing how strong they are.
They have quality right through their team and, when you look through their squad, they also have impressive strength in depth.
That is another reason why I cannot see them falling away.
They are out in front for a reason, and I think they will stay there – the teams below them are playing for a place in the top four.
Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
Source: BBC SPORTS