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Where has it all gone wrong for Man City?

City AM logo City AM 08/12/2019 Frank Dalleres
© Provided by City AM

If Manchester City’s relentless brilliance created an impenetrable sky blue wall around the Premier League trophy last season, this term they are rolling out the red carpet.

Saturday’s surprise 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United means they now trail runaway leaders Liverpool by 14 points, a chasm that manager Pep Guardiola called “not realistic” as a target.

City have dropped eight points in their last five top-flight games, allowing Leicester – now on a club record eight-match winning streak – to build a six-point cushion in second place.

Chelsea are in striking distance just behind them, while it is conceivable that Tottenham will soon be putting pressure on their top-four status, too.

a person standing in front of a crowd: Guardiola’s City team appear to have lost some of their famed intensity. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) © Provided by City AM Guardiola’s City team appear to have lost some of their famed intensity. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Just six months after a domestic treble that had some wondering if it was becoming too easy for City, the question now is: just where has it all gone wrong?

No clean sheets in their last nine fixtures in all competitions tells its own story and the ease with which United tore through the hosts was, at times, embarrassing.

Injuries to Aymeric Laporte and, to a lesser extent, Oleksandr Zinchenko have robbed City of two of their defensive mainstays and neither has been adequately replaced.

Fernandinho’s redeployment at centre-back has weakened both defence and midfield, while at left-back Benjamin Mendy has not rediscovered form and Angelino has not looked up to City’s standards.

But there are wider issues. Leroy Sane’s long-term injury has further weakened the left flank, while there has been an apparent drop-off in the intensity levels that Guardiola demands.

Their crown has slipped but there are still three trophies to play for. Whether the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach can make them look untouchable again is another matter.

a crowd of people watching a football ball on a baseball field: Vardy has scored in every match of Leicester’s record eight-game winning streak © Provided by City AM Vardy has scored in every match of Leicester’s record eight-game winning streak

Could Rodgers undo Liverpool?

That Leicester are the only banana skin in the path of Liverpool’s procession to a first title for 30 years should be no surprise by now, such has been their improvement under former Reds boss Brendan Rodgers.

On Sunday they reached a club record eight consecutive top-flight victories with a swagger, swatting aside Aston Villa 4-1. And it could easily have been more.

Scoring in all eight of those games has been Jamie Vardy, who took his total for the campaign to 16 with two more at Villa and is five clear of his nearest rival in the division’s scoring charts.

While the notion of Rodgers’ new team mounting a title challenge to his old one is appealing, it seems more likely Leicester and City will be tussling to be the best of the rest.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool celebrates victory following victory in the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at Vitality Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) © Getty Images BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool celebrates victory following victory in the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at Vitality Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Reds’ bandwagon rolls on

No Mohamed Salah in midweek against Everton, no Sadio Mane on Saturday at Bournemouth, no matter for Liverpool, who simply racked up two more three-goals wins.

This month was supposed to be when Jurgen Klopp’s men buckled under the weight of a fixture list that also includes a trip to Qatar for the Club World Cup next week.

While that is still to come and they must visit Leicester on Boxing Day, there is no sign of any let-up yet; if anything, Liverpool have gone from strength to strength.

a close up of Marcus Rashford throwing a ball: Rashford’s red-hot form has helped United boss Solskjaer answer some of his critics © Provided by City AM Rashford’s red-hot form has helped United boss Solskjaer answer some of his critics

Rashford behind United bounce

Whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can ever win over all of his detractors is debatable, but the United manager may have persuaded a few swing voters after a landmark week.

Wins over his predecessor Jose Mourinho’s resurgent Spurs and then United’s noisy neighbours have been every bit as deserved as they have surprising, with even £52m misfit Fred looking reborn.

Fuelling seven wins from 11 games is Marcus Rashford’s purple patch of 13 goals in 14 for club and country. How Solskjaer needs him to stay fit and firing if the Norwegian is to remain in favour.

Gallery: Man City v Manchester United in pictures (Manchester Evening News)

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