Three Takeaways: Manchester City defeat Sheffield United 1-0

Manchester City put in a solid performance despite only winning 1-0 against Sheffield United.

Manchester City kept a second consecutive clean sheet as they picked up a vital three points away to Sheffield United 1-0. After their best performance of the season against Marseille in the Champions League, City followed it up with another good performance and a second straight victory as they approach a critical match against Liverpool.

1. City have found their best backline

I’ve believed for some time that City’s best possible back four includes Kyle Walker, Rúben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, and João Cancelo. Cancelo is not a natural right-back, but once again was stellar going forward and showed recovery speed and tackling acumen when covering. Other options such as Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko are simply not as talented players. These are City’s four most talented defenders, and it has a real case to be viewed as the league’s best defense, highlighted by the excellent play of the Dias-Laporte partnership, which is looking like it has the potential to be one for the history books. Throw in some great showings recently from Walker and Cancelo out wide, and perhaps defense is no longer City’s biggest worry.

2. Ferran Torres, or Fernando Torres?

Ferran Torres was meant to be a Leroy Sané replacement, but Pep Guardiola may have stumbled upon something truly special. While he has been effective as a winger, he has been the latest option up top in the absence of Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus. I did not expect much, but he has been absolutely stunning and looks like a natural striker. After a goal against Marseille, he was heavily involved today down the middle, and was unlucky to not score a brace thanks to tremendous goalkeeping from Aaron Ramsdale.

Wingers becoming world-class strikers is not without precedent, as seen with Antoine Griezmann’s move from Real Sociedad to Atlético Madrid, and perhaps this is Torres’ best position. He has the height and natural finishing ability that makes him a far better choice than Raheem Sterling, and these last two games he’s looked like he has played as a striker for his entire career.

3. Liverpool on the Horizon

Manchester City’s games against Liverpool in recent seasons have effectively decided the balance of power in the modern Premier League. With the champions suffering from major injuries to Virgil Van Dijk and Fabinho, this is City’s chance to firmly place their grip on the role of favorites for this season’s title. They must make a statement, and while they have looked very good defensively, they will need a vintage performance in attack if they are to beat a team that still has the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané. This battle at the Etihad will be the first marker of the season in what is shaping up to be the league’s first wide-open title race in some time, with City’s drop in form coinciding with Liverpool’s injuries.

This has opened the door for the likes of Tottenham and Everton to dream of Premier League glory, but the two titans of the English game in recent years remain the favorites despite their issues. This first match between them will be a real test of City’s title credentials.