Early Doors

Statement of intent

Early Doors

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So that's what £350 million does for a
football team, then.

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al
Nahyan witnessed firsthand for the first time what his invested millions have
bought him - and he cannot have failed to be impressed. No wonder why he has a
big smile on his face.

Manchester City's 3-0 thumping of Liverpool
was nothing less than a statement to the rest of the Premier League, delivered
loud and clear. City, it seems, are no longer a club to be sniffed at.

A resounding 3-0 win over a supposed Big
Four team (although surely Liverpool's status as such is under real threat. In
fact, how long does it take for a club to finish outside the top four before they
cease to be a Big Four club?) laid down an ominous marker for the rest of the
league to follow.

ED isn't suggesting that Roberto Mancini will
mastermind a title triumph this season, but glory cannot be far off.

The fear was that there were too many
individuals in City's galaxy of highly-paid superstars and that harmoniously gelling
them all together would prove to be an impossible task. At least initiallly.

But last night's performance in the rain in
Manchester settled that particular argument. City played as a team and
seemingly against all the odds, the whole was greater than the sum of their
parts. And that's after just two league games.

Credit to Mancini. The easy bit for him was
splashing the Sheikh's cash over the summer; the difficult task was always
going to be bringing it all together.

But so far, with a point won at bogey club
Tottenham on the opening day of the season and now victory over Liverpool, he
has done all that was asked of him. And with games against Sunderland,
Blackburn and Wigan up next, City are set to lay a strong foundation for the
season ahead.

Sheikh Mansour's timing in chosing his
moment to present himself to the Eastlands crowd was impeccable. City were
electric, but perhaps most impressive thing about the evening was the make-up
of Mancini's side.

Yes, they have spent millions in the
pursuit of purchased success, and yes they have brought in a number of
established foreign stars, but the core of their side last night was English.  

Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Adam
Johnson, Gareth Barry and James Milner all got a run-out and none of them

Okay, Richards and Lescott will be demoted
to the bench once Aleksandar Kolarov and Jerome Boateng regain fitness, somewhat
dampening the English feel to the side, but the other four are shoo-ins for a
starting spot - and not just in City's side.

If England are to readjust their focus and
look to the future, Fabio Capello could do a lot worse than make Hart his
number one without any further ado and hand Johnson a regular role in his
starting XI. (ED has forgotten about Theo Walcott's weekend exploits already.)

And on last night's form Milner looks every
bit worth the £16m-ish paid for him (taking out Stephen Ireland's value from
the £24m deal). No, actually, that's not true. But he looked good, for sure.

Even Mancini's decision to again play three
defensive midfielders - at home - with Tevez up front on his own was
vindicated, with Yaya Toure (increasingly looking like the wardrobe he is
billed as), Nigel de Jong and Barry effortlessly working alongside each other.  

Wow, any more gushing and your computer
screen will flood. So, a brief word of warning: how do Mario Balotelli, David
Silva and Emmanuel Adebayor fit into all this? Will they be happy to sit on the
bench? Unlikely.

And with Carlos Tevez claiming City's
second goal last night, despite it clearly belonging to Micah Richards, who later insisted he would claim it himself,
the first murmurs of discontent have been sounded. That, after all, is the kind
of thing that could tear a dressing room apart.

- - -

While the Blue Moon is undoubtedly rising,
last night's result proved what a tough task Roy Hodgson has got on his plate
at Liverpool.

Javier Mascherano is on his way out of the
club, Fernando Torres still isn't fully fit and still misfiring, while Steven
Gerrard is continually expected to carry the side on his own.

The club is up for sale, only no one seems to want or have the means to buy it, and is creaking
under the pressure of massive debts. Life isn't so bright in the Red half of
Merseyside at the moment.

Still, now it is widely agreed that money
can buy success - sooner or later - Liverpool fans can at least hope for a
Sheikh Mansour type to come and bail them out. Has he not got a brother with a passing interest in football and a few billion in the bank?

- - -

: Check out last night's goals at Eastlands
on our Premier League video page. But only if you're in the UK.

: "It was not an easy decision but I
am here now and I will give my best. What is most important to me is to play
games and to give everything. I just want to be fit as soon as possible, train
with my team-mates and play matches. I want to show everybody I am still
here." ED wonders if such dedication from new Tottenham recruit William
Gallas stretches to playing at left-back, a position he has refused to occupy
in the past.

: Barcelona are proving as pesky and relentless
in the transfer market as their Spanish rivals Real Madrid of late. First their
outrageous pursuit of Cesc Fabregas, now Javier Mascherano. At least Roy
Hodgson won't be held to ransom for the Argentine captain, telling the
Blaugrana to up their bid to £18m if they want to land the midfielder.

: Crank up Zadok the Priest, the Champions League
is back tonight. Okay, Spurs aren't in action until tomorrow, but you can still
enjoy the likes of Sampdoria v Werder Bremen, Sevilla v Sporting Braga and, er,
Sheriff Tiraspol v FC Basel. All games kick off at 19:45. If domestic cup
competitions are more your thing, the Carling Cup continues with a whole load
of matches tonight - we'll have coverage of the evening's action from 19:45.
Plus, Anorthosis Famagusta and CSKA Moscow provide some Europa League action in
an early 17:00 kick-off and we've got a Premier League Team of the Week and Hot
or Not in video format (UK only).

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